When someone dies, their departure leaves an emotional list of things to do.
In addition to processing the death and tending to their mental health and well-being, the deceased person’s loved ones must also close out that person’s life.
There is a funeral to plan, bank accounts and paperwork to deal with, pets to consider, and bills to pay.
When someone dies at their Chicago home, the list of things to do gets even longer. Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate it on your own.
Here at ServiceMaster of Lake Shore, we specialize in working with expected and unexpected deaths that occur in Chicago homes. With care and compassion, our team helps the deceased person’s friends and family members navigate the aftermath.
This article outlines the steps to take when someone dies at home and how we can help you through the process.
While many people hope to die in the comfort and safety of their homes rather than in a hospital, passing at home creates some additional considerations.
Here’s how we recommend handling expected and unexpected deaths at home:
If someone had a terminal condition or chronic illness, their death at home might be expected.
Here are the steps to take in the aftermath of such a death.
1. Take a moment to process the death
Expected death at home is not an emergency, so you don’t need to do anything immediately.
Once you’re sure the person is dead (there is no pulse or signs of breathing), you can choose to sit with your loved one and say goodbye if you wish.
You may also call friends and family members to come to say goodbye. Remember that this may be the last quiet time you have with the deceased person before the necessary medical protocols begin, and it’s important to honor your process.
When you are ready, move on to the next step.
If the deceased person was served by hospice, contact the hospice. If not, you can call 911 to report the death.
Be sure to tell the 911 operator that the death was expected and that there is no emergency. The operator will send the correct personnel who will provide a legal pronouncement of death, which will allow you to obtain a death certificate.
Without a death certificate, you will not be able to plan a funeral or handle the deceased person’s legal affairs.
If hospice was not present at the time of the death, you should know that it will be considered legally “unattended.”
A police officer or sheriff’s deputy will arrive to provide a brief investigation and move the body to the funeral home, which will help you navigate the next steps.
Next, you’ll need to notify the deceased person’s friends and loved ones. A text message or group email is an easy way to do this, but you can also make individual phone calls.
If you’re not sure who you should notify, consider the deceased person’s contacts. Here are a few groups you’ll need to reach out to:
- Extended family members.
- Members of the social groups or church the deceased person belonged to.
- The deceased person’s coworkers.
As you notify these people, ask them to spread the word and notify others.
When an unexpected death occurs at home, the protocol for what to do is different. In this case, follow these steps:
Unexpected death at home is a medical emergency, and you must contact the relevant authorities immediately.
To do this, call 911 and explain calmly and clearly what has happened and the facts you’re aware of.
The dispatch operator will send the police and coroner, who will certify the death, provide a death certificate, and make arrangements to deal with the body.
This process of dealing with the authorities can be stressful and emotionally painful, so it’s essential to take care of yourself.
Once the body has been removed, and you’ve completed your interactions with the authorities, you’ll need to process the loss.
Talking with friends and family is an excellent way to do this, as is joining a local support group or enlisting the help of a skilled therapist. Grief is a complex process, and you may need help walking through it.
If the death was unexpected or involved trauma, you may need to call in a professional to provide after-death cleaning services.
In addition to saving you the difficult task of after-death cleaning, these companies also serve a critical purpose:
Traumatic or unattended death can leave behind dangerous pathogens that can make a space uninhabitable. Professional after-death cleaning is the only way to remove those pathogens and make the space safe.
Our team here at ServiceMaster of Lake Shore provides these services to residents in Chicago, IL & the Suburbs with sensitivity and discretion and will help you clear the space to move forward and continue with your life.
Regardless of whether the death was expected or unexpected, you’ll need to move forward with funeral and burial plans.
In the best case scenario, the deceased person may have had wills or other legal documents that outlined their wishes regarding funeral and burial, care of pets, and disbursement of assets.
If that’s not true, hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to talk with your loved one about their desired burial plans while they were still alive, and you can proceed accordingly.
If your loved one left no instructions, work with the deceased person’s other friends and loved ones to determine what the person likely wanted in terms of a funeral and what the family can afford.
Since the period after a person’s death is challenging and emotionally difficult, we recommend contacting an estate attorney to help you navigate this process.
While an at-home death can be a peaceful experience, it can also create a variety of unexpected considerations.
Even if the death was expected and your loved one was chronically ill, it’s crucial to handle the aftermath appropriately.
By following the tips in this article and reaching out to a professional like ServiceMaster of Lake Shore, you can navigate the after-death process as seamlessly as possible.