Care of a patient and their family doesn’t end when the patient dies. There are aspects of care still to be undertaken, such as last offices or tissue donation, and the immediate and sometimes longer term support of the family.
When someone dies at home, the family need to know what happens. This can be discussed before the death so that they are aware of what they need to do when death occurs. It is not always possible to have a health professional present at the time of a person’s death, particularly if the person is at home, therefore planning, education and family reassurance are very important in providing supportive, strengths based palliative care. It is important that families are prepared, with plenty of written information such as a list of who to call. When people are upset they may not remember what they have been told.
The information provided may include the physical processes that the dying person may experience, as well as the processes and procedures that follow after death. If there is potential for a problem such as a sudden bleed then families need to know this.
It might also be helpful to mention that there is no rush to do something straight away. If an expected death happens in the middle of the night, the family can wait and be with their loved one until morning, and then ring the Doctor or Nurse. Some specialist palliative care services do have a 24 hour contact number, and families may need to be reminded of this and encouraged to use it as the patient enters the terminal phase.
Read Services Australia's What to do when someone dies
Visit the CareSearch section ‘the dying patient’
Access more after death care resources
Last updated 20 August 2021