What needs to be done when a loved one dies?

We tend to think that when we die, our bodies are magically transported away and someone deals with the paperwork and bureaucracy. Well, that's partly true, according to Keith Louw, Location Manager at First Memorial Burkeview.

"It's a little more involved than people think," Keith says. "First, it depends on where you die and whether any arrangements have been made beforehand."

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The most common place that people die is in hospital.

"In that case," Keith explains, "the deceased is moved immediately off the ward and into the morgue. If the death occurred during the night, the next day the family calls First Memorial Burkeview, or their funeral services professional of choice, and we invite them to come in with the necessary forms for registering the death of your loved one. The legal next-of-kin will sign the forms to have your loved one released into our care, and we take care of the rest."

The release forms are necessary to make sure that the appropriate person is making the arrangements.

"There have been a couple of instances in Vancouver," Keith notes, "where one person has called a funeral home and arranged for the deceased to be moved and another family member has already made arrangements somewhere else."

If a person dies in a hospice, the procedure is very similar.

"In the hospice," Keith says, "the body needs to be removed immediately. The next-of-kin would phone First Memorial Burkeview  or another funeral home and ask for the transfer of their loved one. It's important to note that the phone call has to be made by the legal next-of-kin. It cannot be a hospice worker, nurse or doctor. The funeral services provider will then transfer the deceased regardless of the time of day or night."

When death happens at home, it typically is under two circumstances: a planned home death and an unplanned death.

"In the case of a planned home death," Keith explains, "the deceased has prearranged with the appropriate health authority to pass away at home. When that occurs, there's no need for a doctor, the coroner, or the police. As a professional funeral service provider we can go ahead and transfer the body as long as the appropriate release form has been signed."

For unplanned home deaths, Keith recommends calling 911.

"A death at home that has not been prearranged under the Planned Home Death Act will need the attendance of the police and, eventually, a coroner," he says.

For more information on First Memorial Burkeview and funeral services, call 604.944.4128, visit the website at www.firstmemorialportcoquitlam.com, or stop by 1340 Dominion Avenue, Port Coquitlam.

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