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A Death Has Occurred

When death occurs

Western Carolina Mortuary Service understands that the death of a loved one is a tremendously emotional event. The stress and confusion that follows a death can be overwhelming. If the death was sudden or unexpected, your first reaction may be shock and uncertainty as to what should be done next. If the death was expected (for example, a hospice patient who dies at home), your family may still benefit from the guidance provided below.

What are the very first things to do when death occurs?

If the deceased was actively participating in a hospice program:

Do not call 911. Instead, call your hospice nurse to inform her of the death. The nurse and the hospice agency will work together to legally pronounce the death, handle any necessary calls, and help with arrangements to have the deceased transferred to our funeral home.

If the deceased was not in a hospice program:

  1. Call 911
  2. Unlock the door
  3. If your loved one has an out-of-hospital, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document, have it ready to hand to the paramedics immediately when they arrive
  4. Provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if this is appropriate, and there is no existing DNR document
  5. Wait for further instructions from the emergency, medical, and law enforcement personnel.

When you call 911, both the police and the paramedics will probably respond. Paramedics will treat a "non-attended" (non-hospice) death like any other patient at risk. They do not expect ordinary citizens or the family to be expert at determining death, so they will likely initiate emergency medical procedures. They will also probably take the person to the emergency room of the nearest hospital, where death may be officially pronounced by the emergency room doctor.

If your loved one has previously signed a Do Not Resuscitate order, or DNR, and you have the document ready to show the emergency personnel, they can forgo attempting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). However, they will probably still transport the deceased to the emergency room, so that the doctor may make the official death pronouncement.

We are here to help

Western Carolina Mortuary Service is here to help you navigate the tasks that must be done immediately following the death of your loved one. Please contact one of our funeral directors if you need more information or have immediate need for our assistance (828-254-4880).

What should I do if a loved one dies away from home?

Perhaps your loved one lived hundreds of miles away, or dies while traveling. If you want the funeral service and burial to be held in your loved one's home community, contact Western Carolina Mortuary Service immediately, as soon as you learn of the death (828-254-4880).

Family members should not personally contact a funeral home in the area where the death occurred. Doing so may incur greater expense for your family, and could complicate matters as well. Our funeral directors are experienced in collaborating with out-of-town funeral homes. We can handle the details to get your loved one returned home in the most efficient and cost-effective way. This may seem to go against common reasoning, but it is actually the easiest and most economical alternative.

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