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What Do You Do If Someone Dies At Home?

bigstock-Old-Hand-Care-Elderly-7749577People have often asked me what to do if someone were to die at home. There are actually two scenarios to consider. The first scenario is if a person dies suddenly and unexpectedly at home. The second scenario is a palliative care person choosing to die at home.  In this blog post, I will discuss what to do in both cases.

1. Sudden Death

In this scenario, 911 Emergency Services are called and the responding Police, Fire and Medical Emergency personnel will arrive at the home. Very likely the Coroner will be called to the scene as well. The Coroner’s Office has the highest authority in the Province or Territory and it will literally be the Coroner’s decision of whether an autopsy will be performed at the coroner’s office or whether the body will be released through the Coroner’s Office to the attending Funeral Home.

If an autopsy is to be completed, it will be done at the Coroner’s Office and the Autopsy report will not be released to the family. Rather, the Coroner’s Office issues what is called a Coroner’s Warrant to Bury a Body. This is the substitute for a Medical Certificate of Death – however the cause of death is not recorded on the Coroner’s Warrant. This document will accompany the body along with the licensed Funeral Director that transfers the body from the Coroner’s Office to the Funeral Home the family has selected, to fulfill the desired funeral services.

2. Palliative Care

The second scenario that is becoming more common, is that a pallative person is choosing to die at home. This is known as the Planned Death at Home Program (PDAH) and typically, a person is palliative usually due to a cancer-related terminal illness.

The PDAH program is set up from the person’s primary physician in conjunction with the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) – Palliative Care Services. Most major municipalities now have a PDAH program. In this case, the family fills in a few forms to document their intention that the palliative person wishes to die at home.

The following forms are included in the PDAH program:

1. A Vital Statistic Sheet is completed and kept on file at the receiving Funeral Home. The personal information included in order to register the death in the Province or Territory is:

  • The person’s full legal name – It is important that the spelling of the names dovetails with their other official documents such as their SIN Card, or Passport
  • Place and Date of Birth
  • Usual Occupation – This is required to inform the Income Securities Program that the individual has died. The appropriate monthly payments are then stopped in the month following the person’s death.
  • Spouse or Partner’s name if applicable
  • Father’s Name and Birth Place
  • Mother’s Maiden Name and Birth Place
  • Social Insurance Number

2. A Do Not Resuscitate Medical Directive – this form outlines that the person has declined further invasive treatments and wishes to receive care that will keep them comfortable and as pain free as possible.

3. A Funeral Home Transfer Form – this authorizes the Funeral Home to transfer the deceased from the home to the Funeral Home at the time of death.

4. Planned Death at Home Service – this form outlines the informed consent of the client and a request to the Physician that they understand their medical condition, health status and prognosis and are willingly choosing to die at home.

5. Pronouncement Information – this is a newer part to the PDAH Program in that now a Nurse Practitioner can pronounce a death at home, and the Coroner does not have to be called. The Nurse will notify the Attending Physician. The Attending Physician or his/her alternate will complete the Medical Certificate of Death and have it available to the Funeral Home to pick up. This form also enables the Funeral Home to transfer the deceased to the Funeral Home and secure the actual Medial Certificate of Death within the subsequent 24 hours.

When the required consent forms, physician and funeral home contact information forms are completed, this information is distributed to the PDAH team including the family, the Funeral Home, the CCAC, the Physician, and all Service Providers such as the Nursing Staff, Person Support Workers, or Rehabilitation staff.

The PDAH program may also be offered through a Hospice. The Hospice community aims to provide the family with a holistic and supportive approach to the end of life experience. Many Hospices have a support system that will travel to the palliative person’s home, or some Hospices also have their own residential type home setting that the family can use throughout their stay.

If you would like to know more about the PDAH program, please ask your primary physician or contact a Hospice organization in your community. Click here for more information.

I’d love your feedback. And don’t forget to leave a link back to your own blog via the commentluv feature here on my blog.

Until next time,



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  1. […] Article Source: http://legacymatters.ca/2012/02/28/what-do-you-do-if-someone-dies-at-home/ […]

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