A Guide On What To Do When Someone Dies At Home

By Litha Maqungo
11/20/2020 | 4 min read

The pandemic has put death and our mortality at the front of our minds. Even before COVID-19 hit, convalescing and dying at home was tragically becoming more common.  Due to a lack of beds, hospitals tend to send terminally ill patients home to pass away there when there is nothing further they can do to care for them.  

If you are caring for someone who is ill at home who then passes away or, sadly, an unexpected event occurs at home causing someone to pass away, this is a difficult and often shocking experience.  Most people don’t know what to do or how to handle this situation.

Here’s a short list of important steps take to help you in the event of this traumatic experience:

How to determine if someone is really deceased?

Firstly, phone the emergency hotline, 10177, if the death was sudden or due to an accident. They will advise you on how to assess the individual.  If you are caring for a terminal patient at home, you may want to invest in a blood pressure cuff so that you will know if the patient has a pulse just in case you cannot get telephonic assistance.

Who to call first?

You will need to call both a police representative as well as an ambulance to medically certify the person as deceased.  Usually you call 10111, this service will dispatch both a police representative as well as an ambulance.  Both of these emergency response services will prioritise “living” emergencies so be prepared to wait for a while.

Who to call next?

Once the police service and the ambulance representatives have certified the person deceased, they will provide you with the necessary paperwork to provide to an undertaker.  You will now need to call an undertaker to remove the body of the deceased to a funeral parlour of your choice.  If you are not sure of who to call, you can choose one of the bigger undertaker groups such as Avbob or Doves – they offer services nationwide and usually have a 24/7 call centre number to direct you to an undertaker near you. It is crucial to choose a reputable undertaker and, if repatriation of the deceased to a family territory is needed, confirm that the undertaker has these services or is linked to a company that will repatriate for them.

What should an undertaker assist you with?

The undertaker should assist you with the following:

  • Collection, transportation and storage of the deceased’s body
  • Repatriation, if required
  • Applying for and getting a death certificate (as well as multiple certified copies of ID documents and the death certificate if you need to claim against insurance policies)
  • Planning and quotations for a funeral service that meets your needs and cultural requirements
  • Arrangements and logistics for the funeral

While death is always hard to contemplate, it is essential to ensure that you have funeral cover for all family members that you are responsible for. This will make sure that all the services that you need will be paid for from the payout of the funeral policy. Unfortunately, undertaker and funeral costs can be expensive and these services expect to be paid up front.  If you can’t pay the undertaker, they may refuse to collect or assist you with the deceased.  However, most reputable undertakers will assist you in good faith if you can show them that you have funeral cover. They will usually even assist you with the claims process.

Ultimately death can arrive unexpectedly and beyond the emotional fallout there is the expensive financial aspect to deal with. By planning and choosing the right funeral cover solutions, you know that you will be able to breathe a little easier and focus on being there for your loved ones during a tough time

By Litha MaqungoTags:
  • death
  • funeral
  • funeral cover
  • Funeral plan
  • Protection

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