December 3, 2014

What happens after death for a hospice patient at home

Many elderly people die in hospitals and nursing homes, but that was not our experience and therefore, I cannot write about it.

My mother died in a hospice program at home, so I can only describe our experiences with this scenario.

Although my mother’s primary care physician was also her hospice doctor, this is rarely the case. Hospice also assigns a back up doctor, or hospice doctor, for patients in need of a doctor for their duration in hospice. Once my mother died, the home nurse(s) placed a call to hospice to report her death. My mother’s hospice doctor then “called it in” so that the death was recorded. I’m not sure who gets the call, but it is recorded somewhere.

We, at home, had to call a company to take my mother’s body away. She wanted us to use a crematorium, but the number she left was no longer active. We Googled places and found a funeral home in Greenwich Village that also cremates bodies. We call them, secured their services, and waited for them to come.

After about four hours, two men arrived with a long gurney to take my mother away. In the interim, each of us had spent time with her, kissing her, holding her hands and saying goodbye. By the time the men arrived, we were eating Mexican food and drinking wine and champagne, having and impromptu celebration of my mother’s life. The arrival of the funeral home men seriously dampened the mood of the house quite quickly. Interestingly, no doctor came to our house to declare the death. No body had to be transferred to the hospital for verification of the death, and no one seemed to check to see if the deceased was, in fact, actually dead.

Two days later, I went to this funeral home to pay the bill, to order death certificates (20 @ $15/each) and to pay for the cremation services.

The certificates take two days to come; the ashes take longer, like five days.

I do not have them yet. “We’ll CALL you,” they informed me.

OK. Thanks.

The funeral home is clean, fancy and attractive. The employees wear suits and ties and look very professional. We got special parking passes while we were there.

So, I have the 20 death certificates but no ashes.

My daughter has ideas for where the ashes should be spread. I am glad because I had no ideas and was not even going to ask for the ashes, or for a container for them.

We hope to get the ashes sometime this week.

I have no idea how we can possibly know for sure whose ashes we actually get. I’m also not sure I really want to think about this.

More details next post.

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