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This is terrible, but I really want to know. When my mother passes away, what then? Literally, I have no idea. If she dies at home, who do I call? 911? An ambulance? What do I do? If she dies in a hospital, does the hospital staff tell me what's next? How about if she is in hospice? Do they handle things? I am the only caregiver to my elderly (over 90) mother, and she is in relatively good health, but that day will come, and I want to be sure that I do the right thing. I've never had to handle death arrangements. By the way, she wants no funeral, just cremation, with a memorial mass.

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Sallysee, to make things easier at the end we made prearrangements. Since mom wants cremation as my mom does i went to two funeral homes and got quotes. They will try to sell you all kinds of high priced things you may ar may not want so know going in what your mom wants. They will ask if you want extra copies of the death certificate, say yes 10-15 copies, you will be surpised how many places require them and if you order through funeral home at time of death its much cheeper than having to go back to the county and get more. Once you have your quotes talk with mom and arrange to prepay that locks in todays rates and then when she passes all you do is call the funeral home and they do the rest..no need to call 911 funeral home notifies sheriff. Having everything done in advance takes all the pressure off when mom passes because the decisions were made when you were not stressed by her death. One other thing if there is a chance she may go on medicaid make the funeral trust non revokable that way medicaid does not count it as an asset. Its really very simple, the funeral home was so kind and we spent less than 3,000 for everything because she wants a memorial at her church. Hope the best for you and mom.
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Very good, helpful and thorough advice.

I would only add a few things, not to contradict anyone but to offer a few more options.

1. Sometimes people don't want a funeral service in a church; it can be held in the funeral home itself. Some religious "leaders" will come in, but you can have family or friends offer tributes to your parent's life. You don't have to have a religious service if you don't want to.

2. In fact, you don't even have to have a service; there's another thread here about not having funeral services, and it offers some good insight. Funeral expenses are tremendous - easily several thousand dollars worth, and can easily exceed $10K in costs.

We've had 2 funerals in my immediate family, and spent a lot of money which in retrospect would have been better spent on expenses for maintaining the house until disposition. I wouldn't do that again; next funeral will be more limited and the high priced options won't be considered.

3. You also don't need to have an obituary printed in newspapers. Thieves scan obits to see when family will be out of the house, then can break in and rob them. It's happened in my area. My feeling is that anyone who needs to know will either be called, e-mailed or written. I personally see no need for so much personal information on the deceased and the family to be made so public.

4. It is up to you to notify family and friends, but only those you want to know of your mother's passing. Sometimes out of town family need time to make travel arrangements, so that can affect the date of the actual service or funeral.

5. One of the questions asked by a funeral director is whether or not you want envelopes prepared for donations on behalf of your loved one, sometimes in lieu of flowers sent to the funeral home. Often someone has a favorite charity to which he/she would like donations made. It's not mandatory though.

6. Typically some type of get together is held afterward. Churches tend to mobilize parishioners to produce luncheons. Some people go out for lunch with just their family. It's up to you, and you shouldn't feel obligated to host an elaborate luncheon if you don't want to or the funds aren't there.

Sometimes people just spend time with their close family or friends.

7. Viewing at a funeral home is usually spread over a few days, sometimes in the afternoon with an evening viewing session as well. Sometimes funerals are held immediately after viewing. Flowers sent by well wishers are yours to do with as you please after the service is over.

Sometimes family give flowers to relatives or close friends. They can be taken home for drying, which is what I did. I have 2 dozen dried Peace roses as well as a lovely winter silvery and pale green mix dried and saved from our 2 funerals.

You can also donate them to hospitals or nursing homes.
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cwillie's advice about a DNR is good. Have you spoken with your mom about a DNR? Has your mom expressed what her wishes are for end of life regarding lifesaving measures? From as far back as I can remember my parents drilled it into us that they did not want heroic measures and I was grateful that they had talked to us about it.

If you find that your mom has passed away you can call 911. They will respond and they will let you know what you need to do next. Most likely they will advise you to call your preferred funeral home. Once you settle on a funeral home the meter starts. They will meet with you in their offices (plush, comfortable offices) the next day and you will go over the obituary, choice of casket, type of service and the size of the salon you'll need, online guestbook, burial, etc. It's a brutal meeting conducted at the worst time. During a meeting like this one when my mom died I had to keep excusing myself to run to the ladies room to vomit. But the funeral home will take care of all of the arrangements....for a large fee. If your mom's wish is to have this kind of service it's good to make as many arrangements as possible ahead of time. Many people do this ahead of time so all of the arrangements are in place when their loved one dies and a ton of decisions don't have to be made in the wake of just losing their loved one. This is just one way you can go.

If your mom is on hospice they will tell you that when your mom passes to call them, not 911, not the funeral home. You'll call hospice and they will take care of everything for you. They will walk with your through the process and you won't be left to figure out anything on your own. If/when your mom goes on hospice you will have a discussion with them about your mom's wishes. Does she want a funeral and burial? Does she want to be cremated? Which funeral home do you prefer?

If your mom dies in the hospital the RN will come in, having been alerted by the heart monitor at the nurses station, and respectfully ask that everyone step out of the room for a few minutes. When you do, someone will ask if you would like a minister. Having a minister is not mandatory, you can choose not to. If your mom is Catholic you can arrange to have a priest deliver Last Rites prior to her passing but this will have already been done by the time your mom passes away.

Once the nurse comes out she'll let you back in to say your final goodbyes. You'll find that the nurse has straightened up the room, straightened out your mom's sheets, brushed your mom's hair, and posed her in a peaceful position. At least this was my experience when my mom died in the hospital. We agreed to a minister and he showed up shortly after. English was not his first language. It was late at night, we were exhausted, and as the minister began the Lord's Prayer while we all joined hands, I got the giggles because his English was so bad. We're standing around my mom's body, I can barely understand what the minister is saying, and I'm about to laugh hysterically. It was awful.

But anyway, the hospital arranged for my mom to be delivered to the funeral home. The funeral home contacted us the next day and we went in for a meeting that I vomited my way through.

If your mom has prearrangements with a funeral home and she passes away at home you call them and they'll come to you. And again, they'll walk you through everything. They'll take care of everything. And whichever way you go, even if you just do a cremation with a private reception after as we did with my dad, they'll at least take care of the death certificate and obituary. The death certificate isn't usually ready for several days at which time you'll go and pick it up.

Regardless of what you do when your mom passes away, there will be professionals who will guide you. You won't be left alone to figure everything out. When each of my parents passed we were treated very well and with a lot of compassion. Everyone involved was very helpful and did everything they could do to make things easier for us.

I work in hospice and I've taken my cues from the wonderful way we were treated at the hospital when my mom died. When my patient has died I calmly ask the family to step outside or I inform them that their loved one has died and that they can see him/her in a few minutes. And like what we went through with my mom I try to straighten up the area around my patient, I'll brush his/her hair and turn down the lights and pose my patient in a peaceful position. When I call the family back in I leave the room and call my office. My office arranges for the funeral home to collect the body (the family will have already chosen a funeral home) and there's a minister on call if the family chooses. We only have 1 person from my company in the home at a time so as not to overwhelm the family. Once I leave the minister will be there or some other representative from my company who will walk through the procedures with the family. It's all done very calmly and with compassion.

For a cremation with a memorial Mass a cremation company would be contacted, you'll go in for a meeting and they'll let you know what your options are. And you pay that day. You might want to contact a church prior to your mom's passing and find out what their protocol is regarding Mass. Do you call the church when your mom passes and they arrange the Mass? You can find out prior to her death so you're not making blind phone calls in the wake of your mom's passing. You'll need to know this information also so it can be included in the obituary. And it might be a good idea to start writing an obituary so you're not having to do it when you're so raw and in shock.

Many of these things can be done way prior to your mom's death and the more you can do prior the easier things will be for you when your mom does pass away.
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I hope your mother has her DNR and advance directives in place, because if not things can go very wrong. I had a co worker whose mom died at home, his dad called 911 and the paramedics immediately started CPR, I'm not sure if the used the defibrillator, at any rate they revived her and she survived another week or so on life support. Very sad and totally unnecessary.
A friend had her husband pass away in his sleep totally unexpectedly, and she was grilled by the police. Understandable, I suppose, but can you imagine how horrible that would be?
I would talk to her doctor about your concerns, there is probably a protocol which must be followed if death at home is likely, and they should be able to offer guidance specific to your circumstances and where you live. In my case I would call our health team, who would make arrangements to certify death and transfer her to the prearranged funeral home.
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