What to Do When Someone Dies at Home

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Based on a study conducted by the Stanford School of Medicine, 80% of Americans wish they could die at home. Unfortunately, the statistics also show that only a small percentage of those 80% will actually manage to do it; and according to the same study, 60% of people die in an acute care hospital, 20% in nursing homes, and only 20% at home.

infographic on how people die 20% at home 20% in nursing home and 60% in acute hospital care

What to Do When Someone Dies at Home Unexpectedly

If somebody dies at home unexpectedly and they are alone, it is called an unattended death. Because body decomposition begins as soon as the person dies, it is imperative to be aware of the potential health hazards that come with finding a dead body in a residence. 

Bodies that aren’t discovered for days can quickly decompose, especially in warm climates, causing bodily fluid spillage that can carry bloodborne pathogens and other harmful diseases (such as Hepatitis B and C, HIV, MRSA and more). Even if you knew the departed well and they were not knowingly infected, they could still be a disease carrier and unaware of it, so treating the scene as a biohazard is of utmost importance.

  • Call the police. Calling first responders to photograph the scene, collect evidence and properly take the body away is the first step.
  • Do not touch. Do not attempt to clean the scene by yourself. If homicidal foul play or suicide is involved, chances are, there will be grisly physical reminders of the traumatic event. Depending on the situation, biohazardous substances will be present, so don’t expose yourself to harmful diseases when it’s not necessary.
  • Call Aftermath Services. Many people are not aware that cleaning a trauma scene isn’t something the police do. Once the sirens fade and the dust settles, you are left with an often messy situation on your hands. Aftermath Services provides discreet, compassionate and professional biohazard & trauma cleanup services that fully remediate trauma sites with hospital-level disinfection with OSHA-approved methods.

What to Do When Someone Dies at Home in Hospice

Someone dying at home in hospice requires vastly different procedures than when a death occurs in a hospital. These are some of the more immediate actions and decisions to be made when a person dies at home:

  1. Pronouncement of Death. The deceased must have a hospice caregiver pronounce death. If they are unavailable, the deceased will need to be transported to a hospital, where they may be officially pronounced dead. Calling 911 will bring police, fire or paramedical services to the home; however, none of these services are able to pronounce death or time of death. A coroner may be needed to pronounce death.
  2. Do Not Resuscitate. If applicable, have a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) document handy so no last-minute attempts will be made to prolong the life of the individual dying.
  3. Body Transportation. Arrange for the body to be transported to the morgue or a funeral home/crematorium. Generally, if the deceased was elderly and was under a doctor’s care, it is unlikely that an autopsy will need to be performed. If this is the case, a funeral home can transport the individual.
  4. Physician Notification. Notify the deceased’s physician. If the departed had been regularly seeing a physician in their office, or if house visits had been made by the doctor, they need to be notified so they can notate the death and “close the file” of the departed.
  5. Family Notification. Contact family and close friends and let them know that the deceased has passed away.
  6. Pet Care. If needed, the individual’s pet(s) will need to be cared for, and arrangements made for new ownership.
  7. Employer Notification. If the deceased was employed at the time of death, call their employer to notify them and inquire about any due wages, life insurance policies, other benefits, etc.

These are some of the more urgent items to be taken care of. Once they have been addressed, there will be additional actions to be taken including: 

  • Making funeral arrangements
  • Obtaining a death certificate and making copies of the certificate
  • Making arrangements for someone to keep an eye on the deceased’s residence, if applicable
  • Contacting Social Security and any other agencies to have benefits stopped
  • Closing bank accounts
  • Finding life insurance policies
  • Stopping all utilities and having mail stopped or forwarded 

In the months following the death, other small and large matters will arise and will need to be taken care of as well.

You don’t have to go through tragedy alone. For over 20 years, Aftermath Services has provided biohazard cleanup services to help grieving families and communities get on the road to recovery. Our dispatch centers are located nationwide so they can be to you within a few hours of your call.

Call (877) 701-5930


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