What to do After a Death

When your loved one is receiving care and support from Hospicare, we will guide you through the dying process. Your primary nurse will explain what to expect and what changes or signs you may see.

When your loved one does die, call Hospicare. No matter what time of day or night call our main number, 607-272-0212. A nurse will come to your home and confirm the death. He or she will inform the funeral home, the primary physician, the Hospicare medical director and make arrangements for any medical equipment and supplies to be collected. You can just focus on contacting your family.

Funeral Planning

A hospice social worker or spiritual care coordinator can help you and your family think about funeral options. Our goal is to help you be prepared and supported during this difficult time.

The New York State Department of Health provides a Consumer’s Guide to Funeral Planning to help you understand your rights and to define terminology used.

As you and your family think about funeral planning, these are some questions you may want to consider:

  • Do you have a preferred funeral home? NY State law requires a licensed and registered funeral director to be involved in the care, transportation and preparation of a deceased person.
  • Does your loved one want to be cremated or buried?
  • If burial, does your loved one own a burial plot? Or have a preferred cemetery?
  • If cremated, what does your loved one want to be done with his or her ashes?
  • Do you want to have a graveside service or something immediately after your loved one’s death? Would you prefer to have a gathering at a later date?
  • Is there a clergy person you would want to lead a service? Are there other individuals (friends or family) who would want to speak at a service?
  • Are there particular readings, poetry or music that is important to your loved one or your family that you’d want to include

How to Write an Obituary

There are no hard and fast rules on how to write an obituary, nor are you required to have one. Newspapers charge a fee to print an obituary. The fee is usually based on the length of the obituary.

A funeral home can help you prepare an obituary for your loved one, either by providing a standard form to gather information, or by submitting the obituary to local newspapers.

Information about the person that is frequently included in an obituary includes:

  • Name, including former or maiden names
  • Names of parents and other relatives
  • Spouse’s name and how long their were married
  • Career and/or military service
  • Notable hobbies, organizations the person was involved with
  • Special memories, or how the person will be remembered by those who knew him

If there are non-profit organizations that are important to your loved one and your family, you may want to suggest that friends make donations to those organizations in your loved one’s name. A memorial donation is a meaningful tribute. If there is a specific organization, it is helpful to include the name and address where donations should be sent. Most nonprofit organizations have a website to accept donations online, so including the organization’s website is helpful.  This can be phrased something like this:

“In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made in John’s memory to Hospicare & Palliative Care Services, 172 East King Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 or online at www.hospicare.org”


If you loved one is a Hospicare patient, a member of our bereavement services team will reach out to you in the weeks following your loved one’s death. If you would like more information, please look at our Grief Support section.

Logistical Matters

There are a number of tasks to be done in the day, weeks and months following a loved one’s death. Immediately following the death, you’ll need to contact a funeral home (if the hospice staff hasn’t already done so) and the attorney who has your loved one’s will or trust on file.

Other people and places to notify can include (please note this is not a complete list):

  • Bank or other financial institutions
  • Credit card companies
  • Insurance agencies (both life insurance and property or car insurance)
  • Social Security office
  • Other local, state and federal government offices (such as veterans’ affairs, tax offices, DMV)
  • Employer’s benefits office
  • Utility companies (if services are in your loved one’s name)
  • Social media (Facebook and Instagram can change a deceased person’s account to a “Memorized Account” or have the account deleted. Google provides an Inactive Account Manager to help you designate who can control your account and when.)
  • Alumni office at colleges your loved one attended
  • Organizations your loved one was a member of or regularly involved with (such as faith communities, sororities/fraternities, community groups)
  • Magazines, newspapers and other groups who regularly send mail to your loved one

Many of the agencies or organizations on this list will need to see a certified copy of the death certificate. The funeral director can help you obtain copies (there is a fee for each copy) or you can get copies later from the registrar of vital records in the municipality where the death occurred.

For more information on what to do after the death, review this very useful checklist from Consumer Reports.