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What to do when someone dies in a care home

What to do when someone dies in a care home

What to do when someone dies in a care home

In the UK, nearly half a million people live in care homes (also known as nursing homes). Naturally, these residents tend to be elderly and so many people spend their last days in the comfort of a care home. Carers and other staff will know what to do when a resident dies and are ready to provide advice to friends and family. Nevertheless, it is useful to understand the process for yourself.


Our experienced team are also well-accustomed to answering questions and offering advice. If you would like to speak with us directly, you can get in touch by phone on 0800 133 7961 or by email [email protected]


Initial steps


When someone dies in a care home, the staff will immediately contact their next of kin to inform them. They will also call the person’s doctor or an on call doctor to confirm the death. 


The doctor will usually issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD). MCCDs detail the official cause of death. It is a necessary document for registering a death and arranging a funeral. The doctor will pass it directly to the registrar. 


However, if there is uncertainty around the cause of death, the doctor may need to call a coroner. This may occur if the person passes away suddenly or under unusual circumstances. In this case, the coroner will open an inquiry, potentially performing a post-mortem examination to find the cause of death. Once this is complete, they will let the next of kin know that the body is ready to be released to the funeral director. 


Practical arrangements with the care home


Care home staff are trained to look after someone’s body after they pass away. They will generally move them to their room or another peaceful private area. Friends and family can normally visit them there for a few hours and make arrangements for a funeral director to collect the body.


Please note, under new rules put in place by the Competitions and Markets Authority, a care home is not allowed to select a funeral director without the family’s express permission. The care home should ask the family in advance for their preferred funeral director’s contact information. If you have not been consulted then you will be able to change funeral directors with no payment due to the original funeral director. 


If you would like to arrange a direct cremation, you can ask us to collect the deceased and take them into our care. Just call our team on 0800 133 7961 and we will make the arrangements.


The care home will also schedule a time for the next of kin or other family members to collect their loved one’s belongings. 


Register the death


A crucial stage is to register the death. This can be completed once the cause of death has been confirmed by the doctor. It must be done within five days everywhere in the UK with the exception of Scotland. In Scotland, you have up to eight days.


To register a death, you must find the closest registrar office to the care home where your family member or friend died. The care home itself can most likely tell you where this is. However, it is easy to find out for yourself using the UK government’s search feature, available here.


To register the death, ensure you have the person’s birth certificate, NHS number, marriage or civil partnership certificate, driving license and proof of address. The registrar should already have received the MCCD from the doctor who issued it. 


Registering a death is usually easiest over the phone. Once complete, you will receive a death certificate. This is necessary for sorting any bank accounts, mortgages, wills and other legal affairs but is not needed for the cremation or funeral. 


Registering a death also provides you with a Certificate for Burial or Cremation. As the name suggests, funeral directors need this for a burial or cremation (including a direct cremation) to go ahead. 


Sometimes, the registrar will forward this on to the funeral service provider if you give them the contact information. You can provide our email address, [email protected], and our phone number, 0800 133 7961, if you are arranging a direct cremation with us.


Inform the government 


Several governmental organisations will need to be informed about the death. The government has made this step easy by creating a service that notifies the relevant departments together. The Tell Us Once service is available here.


Arrange the funeral


The funeral arrangements will depend on any instructions the person who has died has left, and also the wishes of their family and friends. For many people, the simple, stress-free direct cremation provided is an ideal option. It enables the friends and family to celebrate the person’s life and say goodbye in their own time and in their own way. If you would like to learn more, we have written a helpful guide explaining exactly what is a direct cremation.


Find out more or begin arranging a direct cremation by calling 0800 133 7961.

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