What Steps You Should Take After a Loved One’s Death in a Nursing Home?
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Too often nursing home deaths are explained unsatisfactorily to the next of kin. When these questions are not met head on, they can grow in the minds of loved ones left to sort out the next steps.
It may be helpful to enlist the services of experienced lawyers like Richard Hollowell and his team. Our lawyers have extensive knowledge of nursing home deaths and the questions you may have. In addition, we know the signs of nursing home negligence and abuse.
If you suspect that you haven’t gotten the full story about a loved one’s passing, our lawyers can discuss the circumstances with you and help you to navigate the next steps.
The First Things You Should Do
After a loved one’s passing, much of the responsibility for resolving their affairs falls on their close kin. There is so much to do — from contacting friends and family to carrying out funeral and burial plans.
If you are the person that takes on some of this responsibility, it’s important to remember the logistical considerations as well:
- Make sure their pets are cared for: If your loved one had living things that depended upon them, making sure that they are supported through this difficult time is important.
- Secure their property: Make sure their plants are watered, ask a neighbor to collect their mail, and throw out food in their refrigerator. If there are valuables, make sure to lock them up.
- Have their mail forwarded: Mail piling up is a key sign that their property is empty — and can provide important clues for wrapping up your loved one’s affairs.
- Notify their employer: Recent employers may be able to provide information about benefits and company life insurance policies.
If You Have Any Suspicions About Cause of Death
It’s important to act fast in cases where your loved one’s death is unexpected. Not only will a timely autopsy be helpful in determining wrongful death, but quick action can help ensure that evidence is preserved.
Our lawyers will:
- Determine whether to request an autopsy: This can be a crucial piece of evidence for wrongful death cases.
- Notify the facility of a potential claim: This step helps to ensure that the facility preserves crucial evidence like video footage. Many facilities delete their security footage every two weeks. This footage can provide key evidence of how often attendants checked on your loved one.
- Identify and interview witnesses: Many of the best witnesses in nursing home wrongful death cases are not long-term residents or staff. Residents on short rehab stays can provide key testimony.
- Review all medical records: Medical records can both help explain your loved one’s death and provide evidence of neglect. Alterations to these records can also provide a powerful sign that neglect has occurred.
- Consult experts: Forensic pathologists can help determine any inconsistencies and provide testimony.
When to Request an Autopsy
When a nursing home death seems suspicious, having a good lawyer to help navigate the process of requesting an autopsy can help.
Far fewer autopsies are performed in the U.S. today than in the past. According to a recent study, before 1970, 40–60 percent of all hospital deaths in the U.S. ended in autopsy. Now that number stands below 5 percent.
This is especially troubling in cases where multiple factors contributed to a death. If you suspect that you haven’t gotten the full story about a loved one’s passing, our lawyers can discuss the circumstances with you and help you to navigate the complex process of requesting an autopsy.
Executing the Will
Eventually, the will and its executor must be found. If the location of the will is unknown, check their desk or safety deposit box. Their executor may be named in the will, or they will be appointed by a probate court.
You don’t need an attorney to help settle the estate. But if there is more than $50,000 in wealth to distribute, having one will help. Such estates can get complicated fast.
When to Consult with an Experienced Lawyer
If your loved one has died in a nursing home and you are looking for answers, the experienced lawyers at Richard J. Hollwell and Associates can help you evaluate your next steps.