What To Do When a Person Dies in a Nursing Home or Hospital


First things First

When a person dies in an institution such as a nursing home or hospital, the institution will file the death certificate using the State of California Electronic Death Registration System also known as EDRS. There is a place in this electronic form to indicate who will be making the disposition arrangement for the body. Usually they want the name of a mortuary for this, but the name of the family member who will be directing the arrangement may be supplied instead. California Heath and Safety Code, Section 102875(a)(6) specifies that for disposition of the remains the "name of the funeral director, or person acting as such" be provided on the death certificate.

Release of Remains

Institutions often have regulations that specify that they only release the remains to a mortuary.  No law requires this, but the institution faces some liability if they release the remains to a family member and subsequent controversy arises among family members about the body.  The institution may therefore refuse to release the remains to a family member. 

The family should consult with the institution before the death occurs about their specific regulations regarding releasing the body, trying to arrive at some arrangement whereby the body can be released to the family or to a particular family member.  There may be waivers or hold-harmless agreements to sign in order for the institution to agree to what they consider to be a non-standard arrangement.

The institution will file the death registration for you, but be aware that you will need to order certified copies ($21).You can visit the Los Angeles County Office of Vital Records here to obtain them.

Deciding on Disposition

If you are choosing to do a direct cremation (no ceremony)  then you simply need to call the funeral home of your choice and they can come pick up the body from the nursing home and bring it directly to the crematory. Be sure to ask about witnessing the cremation, if this is something that you would be interested in.

If you plan on holding any sort of ceremony, no matter how intimate or grandiose, you may want to pause to consider your options. You can either have the body transported back to your home where you can keep it cool with dry ice (in well ventilated bags), or you can have the body brought to the crematory (in the case of working with us) or to the funeral home of your choosing (should you wish to work with another home). The body will be placed under refrigeration while you decide what you would like to do and continue to fill out the remainder of the paperwork necessary.

For a link to the Los Angeles County Office of Vital Records click here.

For a link to the Long Beach County Office of Vital Records click here.

For a link to the Pasadena Office of Vital Records click here.