What Happens After Someone Dies in Aged Care? [7 Stages]

The first 24 hours | 3 days after | 1 week after | 2 weeks after | 1 year after | After death checklist & links

Posted 6th December 2023 |  7 minute read

Written by Jesse Gramenz Reviewed by Julie Dymock  

two residents in an aged care home during respite

We've compiled a short guide on what happens when someone passes away at a St Vincent's aged care home. This is because we hope that it will give you some idea of what to expect within the first 24 hours and even 2 months after death whether you're in St Vincent's palliative care or another aged care home. So, let's get started. 

After the Resident Passes Away (first 24 hours)

The first step after a resident passes away is to confirm the passing with their GP and notify the next of kin if they have not been present during the final stages. Our team will then arrange for the resident’s room to be prepared and a remembrance frame with a photo of the resident will be displayed onsite. We will also complete all necessary documentation.

Before your loved one’s passing, we will consult with you and your family to confirm your wishes for how their body will be transferred from our facility. We are here to support the family in making suitable arrangements with a funeral home for the resident’s final journey.

We believe that the care of the body after death is a sensitive and deeply important aspect of palliative care. Our team will ensure that the resident’s body is treated with the utmost respect and care. We understand that every death is unique, and we will work closely with you to ensure that we respectfully honour your loved one’s wishes.

If you and your family are not present at the time of your loved one’s passing and wish to see the body, we will respect your wish by preparing the body for you to say your final and precious goodbyes. After we receive your full permission, we will make sure to gently wash your loved one, change their clothing, and remove any medical devices they may have had attached. If you prefer (as some do), you may choose to complete the final washing yourself.

We will provide a comfortable setting for you to spend time with your loved one, including the provision of tissues and fresh water. We will also ensure that the air conditioner is on and the essential oil diffuser in the Comfort Care Kit is used to alleviate any unsettling odours.

At St Vincent’s we want to celebrate the life of each resident, and it is our belief that by respectfully accompanying the body from their home via the front door is a dignified and respectful way to do this. We are able to invite family and friends, other residents, and staff to form a guard of honour as the body departs, and can arrangefor your loved one’s favourite music to be played. In some circumstances, we might be able to announce the event so that residents and staff can pay their respects if they wish to.

In keeping with the resident’s wishes, we will arrange a pall (a cloth spread over the coffin), flowers from the garden if in season, and assist with any special requests as best we can..

We understand that every resident is unique and sometimes their families wishes, may differ. We recommend discussing this with your loved one at the earliest time so we can assist in ensuring that the final moments in their home are personalised and reflective of the residents individual journey and balancing that of their family.

Note on Autopsy: A post-mortem, or autopsy, is the medical examination of a body after death.

An autopsy is not generally necessary when the death is known to be the result of known medical

conditions/diseases (i.e., natural causes) and where adequate medical history exists. A hospital (or non-coronial) postmortem may be performed if the immediate family of the deceased person gives their consent.

Resident Room Prepared and packed (within 3 days of passing)

After the departure ceremony, we ask the family to take some time to pack up  the resident’s belongings. We understand the collection of belongings can be an emotional experience for some people, which is why our team will always be there to offer support during this difficult time.

If the resident’s family or friends are not able to pack up their belongings within 3 days of their passing, we ask the relevant next of kin speak with us so we can make arrangements for collection at the appropriate time.

During this week, we will display the remembrance frame with a photo of the resident in a prominent location inside the facility, allowing staff and residents to reflect on the life and their best memories of the departed

Family Collects Belongings (from 3-7 days after passing)

Within the three days after a resident passes, we will meet with you or the next of kin when they come to collect the belongings, invite them to say their farewell to staff and other residents, and are welcome to attend Mass (should it be available).

Kindness and compassion is The St Vincent’s way, and we are here to help guide you in the days before and after a resident passes.

If for some reason, a family member or friend cannot pack up and collect the residents’ belongings within 3 days, with your blessing, we will arrange a staff member to carefully pack up the residents belongings with a packing slip ready for collection.

We will then contact the next of kin to advise that the room is packed and that possessions are ready for collection, within 7 days.

Emotional Support for Family/Friends (within 2 weeks after passing)

St Vincent’s believes that offering kindness, emotional support and compassion to the family and loved ones after a death is a fundamental and important feature of the way we support families and friends of residents in the days and weeks afterwards they leave us.

We will reach out to you via phone to check how you are, we cared about your family member, and we care about you. It may help to talk through your feelings with someone who knew your loved one. If you are not ready to talk, that is OK too.


Final Invoice (2 weeks after passing)

To allow enough time for things to settle down, and to ensure we have all the correct information in place, we will issue the final invoice for care and accommodation up to the day prior to the resident passing away.

The final bill will then be less any refunds due or outstanding fees due to St Vincent’s Care. There may be some circumstances where a final invoice is more complex and has various adjustments to be made and may be a slight delay in this being sent to the EPOA.

If you have any questions, please contact the Accounts Team on 1800 642 795. Emotional Support for Family/Friends (2 months after passing)

This is another opportunity for us to check on your wellbeing and see how you are going. It's also a chance for you to ask any questions of us. We will also take a moment to do some housekeeping and make a note of the best person to stay in touch with regards to invitations to our annual memorial event and remove you and other family members from our mailing lists.

Celebrating Life – Annual Memorial Event (hosted in November each year) 

Each year our onsite team, led by the Pastoral Carer, hosts a memorial event for those who have lost a loved one during that year to attend a service together, as a way to pay respect to those that have passed. St Vincent’s will invite families and friends to attend an event held at the facility in November, staff also attend to pay their respects. The annual memorial event is completely optional for families to attend.

From feedback, many families appreciate this time to reflect on their loved ones life and it is also an opportunity for our staff that have made strong bonds with residents to take a moment to pay their respects. The event is an opportunity for families to reconnect with staff and for St Vincent’s to say thank you homage to every resident that has been in our care in the past year.

After death 

The days and weeks after the death of the resident can be an especially difficult time, as at some stage there are a number of legal and practical steps that must be

undertaken and issues that must be finalised. A key step in managing the affairs of your loved one relates to the will.

A will is a legal document that outlines how a person would like their assets (estate) distributed when they die. For this, they should have appointed a person (executor) who is responsible for the administration of their estate. If the deceased had a valid will, the executor may need to apply to the Supreme Court for grant of probate. If the deceased did not have a will, letters of administration may be required to administer the estate.

You should check, as soon as practical after death, whether the deceased was a registered organ and tissue donor. You can ask the facility to check the Australian Organ Donor Register.

Below there is a practical, helpful list of some things you may need to do, depending on the situation after the death of the resident.

For more details on each of these areas please visit:

New South Wales: service.nsw.gov.au/guide/death-and-bereavement

Queensland: manage-affairs-after-death.services.qld.gov.au

Victoria: betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/what-to-do-after-someone-dies

Download our free after death checklist

Still have questions?

st vincent's call centre worker