Chapter 2: When death happens
The first few hours
The first few hours after someone you care about has died are often emotionally challenging. What should you do? Whom should you call? The answers are different for everyone and can depend on your situation and where the person has died.
Many caregivers want to have family or friends with them, while others want to be alone. Some choose to sit with the person’s body to say their final goodbye. Click on the situation below for more information.
Because you will have members of the healthcare or palliative care team on site, they can guide you through the next steps and how to proceed.
You may have a document from a healthcare provider that states this was an expected death. Your next step is to contact the funeral home, if you are using one, and the involved healthcare provider to tell them that the person has died.
Your next step is to contact the person’s healthcare provider or palliative care provider. They must pronounce the person’s death and sign a death certificate. If they are not available, call 9-1-1 to explain the situation. Police or the medical examiner will need to visit your home before a funeral home is able to come.
It’s possible that death may occur shortly after medication is given, since medication is delivered so regularly. If a family member administered medication, that person may worry that they caused the person’s death. It’s important to remember that the person had a serious illness and their death was an expected outcome due to their disease. The support of a healthcare provider is helpful in guiding families through these concerns.