When someone dies at home, it can be a confronting, confusing and stressful time for all those involved. There are some important issues that you need to take into account and that will help you make the right decisions on who to call and when. Generally, there are two issues to consider and that will determine what you need to do if you are ever faced with the situation of a loved one passing at home.
Was their passing expected?
For some people who pass away at home, their passing has been expected, they may have been under the care of palliative care professionals at home, or they may have be being cared for at home by family or friends in the final stages of their life journey.
If your loved one has passed away at home and their death was expected, the first person for you to call is their Doctor. The Doctor or a Nurse will need to visit you at home and certify that your loved one has passed away and that the circumstances surrounding their passing were as expected.
Once the Doctor or a Nurse has attended, they will issue what is known as a “Life Extinct” form. This is a requirement for a funeral director to attend and bring your loved one into their care. Whilst you are waiting for the Doctor or Nurse to attend, you should call your preferred Funeral Director and advise them that a death has occurred. They will then arrange a time to bring your loved one into their care and begin the process of planning the funeral.
It is important to note that you do not have to immediately have your loved one collected. In fact, we encourage families to spend a little time with their loved ones at home, in a peaceful environment that allows you to say all the things you want to say, to lay with your loved one and to spend some final time with them without feeling rushed or pressured.
In Queensland, we have some climate issues to be aware of, for both your comfort and the comfort of your loved one. If you have air conditioning, it is wise to switch it on to as cool as you feel is comfortable, we would recommend the lowest temperature setting available. We also encourage you to make your loved one more comfortable by positioning them in a neutral position (arms by their side, removing any pillows, straightening out their legs), and positioning a small rolled up towel under their chin. Sometimes their eyes may close naturally, and other times they may not. Your loved one may release some fluids and that is ok and to be expected. This is completely normal and it is nothing to be afraid of. In Queensland, we would suggest that you consider 8 hours to be a sufficient amount of time to spend with your loved one at home without any mortuary treatments, after this time, it is important that your Funeral Director brings them into their care so they can be properly cared for.
This time should be peaceful for you and for your loved one. Put on some music, light a few candles, chat, laugh, cry, touch. Whilst it sounds weird to say “enjoy this time together’, for people who have had a tough struggle with illness this is their time of release and rest and it is something to share together. During this time, if you have any questions or are unsure of anything that is happening, you should call your funeral director and ask for some advice, they will be more than happy to put your mind at ease or take the necessary steps to support you in transferring your loved one into care.
Was their passing unexpected?
If your loved one has passed away at home and their death was not expected, you should first call 000 and advise the operator that you believe your loved one to have died. They will connect you with the Ambulance service who will then dispatch Paramedics and most likely the Police to the place of death.
It is important that you do not remove anything from the residence at all and you follow the directions of the Ambulance Dispatch Officer on the telephone. Most times they will stay on the line with you until the Paramedics arrive at your residence.
For someone who has passed suddenly or unexpectedly, they will most likely require an autopsy to determine the cause of death. The government undertakers will be called by the police and they will take your loved one to the State Forensic Laboratory, for those os us in South East Queensland, this is at Coopers Plains. Here your loved one will undergo a range of tests to determine their cause of death. This can include a full autopsy, medical imaging, toxicology testing and both internal and external assessment. The staff here will keep you informed of what processes will occur and will generally keep you updated throughout the process.
When an autopsy is required, this lengthens the time that is required for a funeral to take place. Generally we would allow an additional 5 business days before a funeral service can take place, so for some, this means that a funeral will be roughly 2 weeks after the passing of your loved one.
Whilst your loved on is in the care of the State Forensic Laboratory, you should call your preferred funeral director who will complete the necessary paperwork to have your loved one released as quickly as possible and brought into their care. Once your loved one is in the care of your Funeral Director, they will then finalise any planning and arrangements for your loved one funeral service.
It can be a traumatic experience when a loved one passes away at home, in all cases, it is important to try and remain calm, and to seek any support or assistance that you may need. Our Funeral Directors are connected to a number of support services and can give you a referral to the one that is most appropriate for you, you should feel comfortable to ask for this if you need it. Remember, our Funeral Directors are there to support you as well as care for your loved one, so there is no judgement and we are always willing to assist however we can.
Please feel free to get in touch with our Team should you require any information or support on this topic or if you would like us to refer you to a support service in your area.
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