Steps to Take Upon Death of a Loved One in Assisted Living

A dreaded task for the adult child of an aging parent is the day on which your mother or father passes on. If your parent is living in an assisted living community, you are wise to have a basic understanding of the protocols of addressing the end of life of a parent residing in an assisted living community. While this isn’t a happy discussion, it is a necessary one.

Unexpected Death of a Parent in Assisted Living

The death of an aging parent can be unexpected but not surprising. By that it is meant an older person might die without first enduring some type of prolonged illness, the passing itself being unexpected. Despite being unexpected, none of us can honestly state that it’s surprising when an older person’s time on Earth comes to an end.

If this occurs, if you are the primary contact for your parent or your other loved one, you will receive a telephone call from the assisted living community. In this day and age, you certainly are more likely to receive a telephone call as opposed to an email or a text. 

You will be informed of the passing of your loved one. During this phone call, you will be advised of the time period for which your parent or other loved one’s remains need to be transported from the assisted living community to a funeral home. 

Different assisted living facilities can have varying time periods during which a loved one’s remains need to be retrieved and transported. With that said, a typical time period is somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours. Provided you do reach out to a funeral home for transport – or the assisted living does this for you – if the initial time period cannot be satisfied, an assisted living facility will work with you and will not make impossible demands on you. 

Keep in mind that California regulation permits you the ability to have a funeral home transport a deceased loved one from the location of his or her death to an appropriate destination (the funeral home itself, in most cases) and not engage that funeral home for other services. You will be responsible for paying the transport costs. However, you can still have flexibility in hiring a different funeral home if you so desire. This is mentioned in the event that the funeral home you prefer is not available for transport in a time period needed on the part of the assisted living community. 

Death While in Hospice in Assisted Living

Your parent may be in hospice care within an assisted living community. If that is the situation, the death of that parent would be expected and not surprising. In California, and elsewhere in the country, hospice care is available for an individual with a terminal medical condition who is expected to live no longer that six months. 

In California, an assisted living community can obtain from the state what is known as a hospice waiver. A hospice waiver permits an assisted living community the ability to have a set amount of residents in hospice care in the community at any given point in time.

If your parent or other loved one dies while in assisted living hospice care, one of the services typically provided by hospice will be transport of a deceased loved one’s remains from the facility to a designated funeral home. In most instances, this will be the funeral home you previously have designated with hospice. If no such designation is made, transport of the remains and temporary maintenance of the deceased loved one can be arranged as discussed a moment ago in this article.

Timeframe for Removal of a Deceased Loved One From an Assisted Living Community

Assisted living communities are not equipped to maintain human remains in their facilities. They do not have the equipment necessary to hold a deceased loved one for any significant period of time. 

In addition, when a person dies in assisted living, particularly in a smaller community, the passing understandably can be unsettling for other residents. With the deceased individual’s remains remaining in an assisted living community, other residents (also understandably) can be in an emotional state. In short, the importance of a quick removal of a deceased resident’s remains from an assisted living community is established.

We previously have noted that a common time frame is in the three-hour range. As we also made mention, there is some flexibility in regard to a time frame initially indicated by an assisted living community. The key is keeping lines of communication open and taking steps to arrange suitable transport of your deceased loved one. 

Your Responsibilities When Your Parent’s Life Ends in Assisted Living

If you are not at your parent’s side when he or she dies, you will receive a telephone call from the assisted living community after your mother or father passes. If your parent’s death was not anticipated, if your parent passes during the night, assisted living staff is most likely to call you in the morning. Odds are in such a situation your parent passed during the night while asleep. 

Of course, if there was a medical emergency during the night that resulted in your parent’s death, you would have been contacted of the situation by staff during the night. (This assumes you are the emergency contact for your parent.) If your parent dies suddenly during the course of the day in assisted living, you will be notified immediately. 

When you receive this notification, you will likely be provided a specific amount of time to have your loved one’s remains transported from the facility. The remains will need to be transported by a funeral home authorized for this type of conveyance. (In a moment, we talk about the importance of preplanning when it comes to issues associated with your parent’s ultimate passing.) 

Funeral homes are equipped to transport remains on short notice. The typical California funeral home is staffed 24 hours a day. An assisted living community is not apt to request transport of a deceased resident in the middle of the night, however. That would be considered too significant of a burden on a family of a deceased resident. Moreover, that type of removal from the facility would likely be particularly and unnecessarily unsettling to other residents.

If you really don’t know who to contact in regard to transporting your loved one from an assisted living community, this type of long-term care facility is very likely to have an existing relationship with a funeral home or homes that they can recommend for you. Some assisted living facilities would be willing to make initial calls on your behalf. 

Preplanning for Your Aging Parent Is Important

The necessity to respond fairly swiftly when your mother or father passes on in assisted living is another factor that underscores the importance of death, funeral, and committal (burial or cremation) preplanning. Preplanning can be a comprehensive process that addresses everything from retrieval of a loved one’s remains after death, preparation, funeral itself, and burial or cremation. 

The death of an elderly parent or other loved one is never easy. The staff of an assisted living community will make the process of transporting your deceased mother, father, or other loved one as easy as possible. Having said that, you nonetheless will have responsibility to initiate and carry out a relatively swift response when a loved one’s life comes to an end while living in an assisted living community.