Dealing with Death - What to Do When Someone Dies

Dealing with death is always hard. But when you are working on the wards, or in a nursing home, getting organised and focusing in on the tasks you have to do make it easier for you to cope.

What to do When Someone Dies in a Nursing Home or Hospital Ward

Here are some basics that need to be done in the event of a death on a ward or in a nursing home: 

  • Note the time of death or the time the death was discovered. The person in charge of the hospital ward, care home or patients own home has to be informed.
  • The doctor then has to be informed and will be the person to confirm the death and produce a death certificate for the next of kin. If it is a sudden death the coroner will also need to be informed. 
  • The next of kin and the family then need to be contacted.
  • The patient or their family might have requested a priest or minister to be present. 
White and yellow orchid for a death

Caring for the Deceased and Their Family

The care role continues:  

  • To retain their dignity, all medical equipment should be removed from the room.
  • Any intra-venous drips or catheters, trays of dressings etc should be taken away. 
  • The patient should be washed and dressed in preparation for their relatives to visit. 
  • It’s nice to put any flowers onto the side locker. 
  • Hospital social workers may need to be informed to support relatives. 
  • The relatives have the choice of choosing the undertakers, who will take care of the deceased. 

Caring should be extended to the other patients on the ward or in the nursing home who will also be upset and shocked at the death. They need support too in dealing with death, as they may have built up a relationship with the other patient, or it may just be frightening for them. 

Other clients still need to be cared for. Relatives visiting the deceased need cups of tea and support. It is a busy time.

Dealing with Death - Taking Care of Belongings

If the deceased is in a hospital ward, then relatives may wish to take their belongings home. These should have been catalogued, especially any valuables and need a signature from a relative before releasing them. Some valuables may have been locked in the office safe.

In a nursing home setting where a resident has been living for a long time, the family may have to return another day to empty a full room. All these discussions have to be dealt with tactfully and calmly. There is usually a member of the family who takes charge and can cope better than others.

Once the undertakers have taken over the care of the deceased, the bed has to be stripped and cleaned. The room, lockers and wardrobes emptied ready for the cleaners to come in.

Initially, dealing with death is relatively easy because of getting organised with all the tasks that need to be done. Coping emotionally comes later. The following links will take you to more advice about dealing with the grief of death on the wards.

Related Pages: 

Coping with Death in the Caring Professions

Signs of Approaching Death

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross - On Death and Dying

A beautiful white orchid to comfort those dealing with death

Where to get help: 

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