How to Respond to an Unattended Death
An unattended death can happen, leaving the loved ones left behind scrambling for answers. As soon as the body is found, it is important to contact law enforcement officials. Additional steps are required to properly respond to an unattended death.
What is an unattended death?
When a person dies alone and is not found for several hours, days or weeks, the event is called an unattended death. These types of deaths can affect people who have committed suicide, for example, and have no friends or loved ones close by to check on their welfare.
Old age can lead to unattended deaths, especially among seniors who live alone and die in their homes. Some individuals become sick without realizing the extent of their illness and soon pass away in their homes alone. Drug abusers can overdose on illegal or prescription drugs and pass away alone.
Accidents, too, are contributors to unattended deaths. For instance, a person may slip and fall, hitting their head and succumbing to the blow. Or, an individual may be involved in an accident, becoming trapped under a heavy item and dying without others immediately knowing.
Murders or other violent crimes often go undiscovered for a long period of time. As mentioned, suicides can be defined as an unattended death; however, these instances are commonly considered to be unattended deaths when the suicide victim lives alone.
An unattended death is defined differently than an unexpected death. The latter is when the individual passes away suddenly and without warning. However, an unexpected death may be considered an unattended death if the person’s body is not discovered right away.
An unintended death also has a far different meaning from an unattended death. The term unintended death is a legal one, describing involuntary manslaughter. Due to this definition, an unintended death is not viewed in the same manner as an unattended death.
What steps should be taken after an unattended death?
Stumbling upon a body that has been decomposing for hours, weeks or months is an overwhelming experience. Not only is the ordeal painstaking, but it can be unsafe. Decomposing bodies release bacteria from the digestive tract, creating hazardous conditions for anyone nearby.
- Call law enforcement
As mentioned, the first response to finding a body is to contact the local police. Explain to law enforcement officials what was found and the relationship to the deceased. Wait outside until the officials arrive, and be prepared to answer any questions they may ask.
Authorities will remove the body from the area. A medical examiner or coroner may arrive at the scene to evaluate the possible cause of death. If the death is due to natural causes, the body will be released to the family. Suspected foul play or suicide may require an autopsy.
- Make funeral arrangements
The body of the deceased should be transported to a crematorium or mortuary. The closest of kin is responsible for transferring the body in the event foul play is not involved and an investigation by the medical examiner’s office is unnecessary.
If the individual who finds the body is close to the deceased, it is important to make arrangements with a nearby funeral home. Should a landlord or property manager discover the body, they should immediately contact the next of kin to make funeral arrangements.
- Alert family and friends
Notifying the friends and family of the deceased is the responsibility of the individual who finds the body, even if they were not directly related. By making them aware of what happened, the family can begin the grieving process and make final arrangements for the body.
Additional members of the deceased’s social circle should be notified, as well. Alert members of the church to which the deceased belonged, business associates, and others in the social network. Social media is an invaluable tool to let people know of the individual’s passing.
- See a grief counselor
Discovering an unattended death can be a traumatic and stressful experience, and coping may be a difficult process. If coping is emotionally challenging, a grief counselor may be able to help. Counseling professionals are trained to help people navigate their complex emotions and cope with the tragedy.
- Contact a biohazard cleaning service
A decomposing body releases bacteria and pathogens that can be dangerous to others. The decomposition process is quick, making it necessary to bring in biohazard cleaning crews as soon as possible. The proper cleaning of bodily fluids and odors is critical to health safety.
Biohazard cleaning professionals are experienced in the correct cleanup of unattended death scenes. They wear personal protective equipment and follow strict protocols to safely remove the bodily fluids, pathogens and odors and return the property to a safe and habitable condition.
If you come across an unattended death and require the services of a reputable biohazard cleaning company, turn to ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration. We clean the vicinities in which natural deaths, homicides, and suicides have occurred, as well as crime scenes and trauma scenes.
Our undiscovered death cleanup process is handled by experienced teams of restoration professionals. Crews of skilled technicians carefully remove all biohazard and contaminated materials, eliminate stains, fully deodorize the property, and properly dispose of biohazard materials at a licensed facility.
ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration crews work discreetly to protect your privacy during this difficult time. Due to the sensitive nature of the death, our specialists are trained to offer respect and compassion to the families who have suffered the loss.
In the event a crime had been committed, ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration technicians cooperate fully with law enforcement officials and investigators. We are careful to avoid disturbing the evidence or compromising the scene where the police investigation is underway.
Protecting yourself and others is crucial in the aftermath of an unattended death. Contacting ServiceMaster Fire and Water Restoration is a key step in the healing process. We serve Denver, Colorado, and its surrounding communities 24 hours a day. Call for immediate trauma scene cleaning.