Care after death
'People who experience bereavement need to have their loss recognised and acknowledged by professionals' - When a Person Dies - 2011

How professionals care and respond to the bereaved after a death can have a long term impact on their grief, health and memories of the person who died.

When someone is at the end of their life in hospital the nurses’ role does not end there, it continues beyond the death, providing care for the deceased person and also support for the bereaved family, carers and friends, which is an essential part of good quality end of life care.

‘Care After Death’, known as ‘Last Offices’ is historically related to the Latin officium, meaning service or duty. Sometimes referred to as ‘laying out’, the term used for the nursing care given to the deceased person, which demonstrates continued respect for them. However, this new terminology ‘care after death’, is more suitable of our multi-cultural society and reflects the different tasks nurses carry out, including personal care after death, skilled sensitive communication and support for the families/carers. It can be a very emotionally challenging time for both the families/carers and nurses. A key responsibility for nurses in hospital is ‘care after death’.

When death occurs in other settings i.e. Hospices, Care/Nursing Homes and at home, the responsibility of care can include the GP’s, carers, social care and funeral directors.

Other professionals involved in a hospital death can include consultants, registrars, portering staff, mortuary technicians, bereavement care staff, chaplaincy, coroner/officers, police, ambulance staff, social care and/or funeral directors. Collaborative working between all individuals and relevant authorities is an essential part of the bereavement care pathway for the deceased person.

Care after death includes:

  • Respecting the spiritual and cultural wishes of the deceased/family/carers
  • Discussing with the family organ and tissue donation
  • Offering participation and support of the family/carers in the ‘care after death’ procedure
  • Ensuring dignity and respect in the preparation of the deceased person for transfer to the mortuary/ funeral directors
  • Allowing the family/carers time to sit with the deceased person
  • Ensuring dignity, respect and privacy of the deceased person at all times
  • Ensuring everyone who comes into contact with the deceased person adheres to health and safety regulations
  • Ensuring the dignified return of the deceased persons personal effects to the family/carers
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