What to Do When an Aging Loved One Dies

What to Do When an Aging Loved One Dies

October 19, 2015 | by Valerie Michel Buck

If and when my parent passes away (which will likely take place in my own home), I wouldn't know what to do. Most people don't know what to do. The process itself is overwhelming to think about. Take a deep breathe, the next few moments maybe may be a little hectic.

Things to consider just after passing

When your aging loved one dies, note the general time of death. You don't necessarily need to call someone right away unless the circumstances of the death were unusual or if your loved one is an organ donor. Organs need to be transferred as quickly as possible. If you are not sure if they are an organ donor, you can check their driver's license or any advanced health care directive (living will or health care proxy) they may have available. You may even consider calling the nearest hospital to speak with an organ donor coordinator who can help you through the process.

If your loved one is not an organ donor and you want to spend some time with the newly departed and say goodbye, then is the perfect time to do so. Within the first hour of death, you can also wash and dress the body if you'd like to do so. You can also close their eyes and mouth if they are open. Sometimes the mouth may reopen. If that happens, place a rolled towel underneath the chin in order to keep it shut.

Inviting relatives and loved ones to come say their final good-byes can be done as well. It is generally best to keep these types of invites to a select few as you may be overwhelmed, emotionally drained or even in a panic. Adding additional people's emotions to your own may make matters worse. Funerals, viewings, and family gathering may be the more appropriate time to invite relatives to visit the deceased.

Calling a local funeral home is your next step (if other arrangements haven't already been made). It may be many hours before they come. When they arrive they will have questions for you. They will transport your loved on a gurney from the place of death to their vehicle, then drive to the funeral home/mortuary.

Things you will need to think about during the upcoming days

The death of a loved one is not an easy thing to experience. Finalizing their final affairs can be just as difficult. Take time now to understand the items below so you will be prepared to assist your loved one with their final wishes and needs.

Funeral Arrangements

Considering the departed wishes and what you're able to afford. Reach out to a funeral service and meet with the funeral director. They can assist in any decisions that need to be made including embalming or cremation, closed or open casket, burial site, headstone, etc.

Close Friends, Extended Family

You'll want to contact the departed's close friends and extended family and maybe a few of your own. They can help with moral support. This also gives them time to take time off to grieve and time off to attend the funeral.

Religious Leader

Notify the departed's church leader or clergy. These individuals can help you and your family during the coming days.


Securing the departed's home and vehicle is important. If the person lives in a rent home/facility, you'll want to notify the property manager.


Does the departed have pets? If so, making arrangements for them will be necessary.

Post Funeral Gathering

Gathering those together who cared for the departed is a great way to share experiences and help each other through the grieving process. Enlist family and friends to help with this gathering.


Some funeral home may offer this as a service, or you may want to write one yourself. Check with the local newspaper on rates, deadlines, and submission guidelines.

After the Funeral

Death Certificates

Before you talk to any of the entities below, make sure you request and receive the death certificate and order duplicates. Funeral directors may help handle this but you can also visit your local vital statistics office in your state for further assistance.

Notifying government agencies

Social Security, Veterans Affairs (if applicable), Medicare, DMV, and the IRS are all agencies that need to be informed about the death of the departed. An official copy of the death certificate may be needed with the cause of death clearly provided. With the IRS, a final tax return will need to be filed.

Insurance Policies

Insurance companies will need to be notified of the death.

Estate (Probate), Creditors, Financial Advisors, Mortgage Companies, Banks, etc...

All will need to be notified. Accounts will need to be closed. Trusts and estates will need to be settled. Much of this can be done as paper statements arrive in the mail.

Credit Reporting Agencies, Other Memberships

Credit reporting agencies should be notified to limit the chance of identity theft. Other memberships such as Gym, Spa, Clubs, Library, etc should be cancelled as well.


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