Thankfully, very few of us have extensive experience observing and caring for someone in their last days. As caregivers, we hope to be prepared for this time and to make these moments as valuable and comfortable as possible for us and our loved ones.
This is the time to gather the family to say final goodbyes to their loved one. They may take turns with the patient, holding hands, talking to the patient, or just sitting quietly. It can also be a time to perform any religious rituals and other activities the patient wants before death. It is a chance for many families and friends to express their love and appreciation for the patient and for each other.
It is important to have a plan for what to do after death, so that the family knows what needs to be done during this very emotional time. If the patient is in hospice, the hospice nurse and social worker will help you. If the patient is not in hospice, talk with the doctor about it so that you will know what to do at the time of death. The American Cancer Society describes many of the typical changes in body function, consciousness, metabolism, etc., that occur as death approaches, and how the caregiver can help. Not all of the symptoms illustrated will happen, but it may help you to know about them.
Be sure to pay attention to this important note: If you call 911 or emergency medical services (EMS), even after an expected death at home, the law often requires that EMS try to revive the patient or take him or her to a hospital. This can complicate the situation and delay funeral plans. Be sure that family and friends are ready and know exactly whom to call, so that they don't dial 911 in confusion or panic.
Places to notify after a death:
You will need a certified copy of the death certificate to file with the income taxes for the year of death, if applicable.