Chapter 1: Considerations for a home death
Mixed emotions about living in the home after a death
I was so lonely after he died – it just felt like a big house with 45 years of memories. Even though they were mostly good ones, the last two years of his sickness seemed to dominate.
As the final hours approach, some families realize they are uncomfortable with the thought of someone dying where the family lives. The spaces occupied by the family member will bring back strong reminders of that person, and families may find it hard to imagine living in these spaces after a death occurs.
Other factors may make staying at home difficult. Click on each of the tabs below to find out more.
The time and attention required by the person who is ill may cause stress within the family. Spouses or children may feel unfairly “forgotten.”
The person who is ill may become delirious, aggressive, or agitated. Managing someone who is restless is extremely challenging in a home environment.
Not knowing when death will arrive requires a kind of endurance on the part of the family. It’s like being asked to run a race with an unknown finish line.
Keeping the patient comfortable near the end of life requires ongoing vigilance, drug changes, and sometimes difficult clinical decisions.
If death occurs after the caregiver administered medication…
The possibility exists that death will occur after medication is given, since medication is delivered so regularly. If a family member has administered the medication, that person may be left with a memory that is quite traumatic. Although the patient has died after a lengthy disease, family members tend to associate the death with their actions. Family members who are not familiar with the medications may feel as though the medications have contributed to the dying process, even though the death was an expected outcome after a lengthy illness. The support of the healthcare team is helpful in guiding families through these concerns.
There are things you can do to return to the normal activities of daily living after a death. These could include:
- Resuming to some activities that you used to enjoy like walking, cycling, swimming, sewing club, book club, etc.
- Socializing with family and friends. Surround yourself with people who can share and support you in your grief.
- Learning new skills by taking a class in cooking, crafting, etc.
- Join an interest group that is totally new to you – you may want to do this with a friend or family member.
- Over time and if you feel up to it, you could rearrange some furniture pieces or add some decor as a way to create a different feel in the space.