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Following the death of a family member

Our deepest sympathies are with you as you grieve for your loved one.

We appreciate this is a difficult time for you and your family. This brochure aims to help answer some common questions following the death of a family member.

If you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to speak to a member of Mater Hospital Brisbane’s Social Work team.

What should I do following the death of my loved one?

death imgA funeral director needs to be selected by family or friends as soon as possible after the death. Once a funeral director is contacted by the authorised family member or friend (if no family), the deceased is transferred into the funeral home’s care. Please speak to your nurse about a list of available funeral directors. Alternatively, a selection of funeral directors are listed in the Yellow Pages; you could search online; or ask a friend for a recommendation.

Who organises the funeral?

Following a death, a funeral director needs to be selected. A funeral director will guide you, and advise on the many tasks that need to be undertaken following a death. If you are uncertain about what action to take, the funeral director will assist you. All funeral directors will arrange a time to meet with you at your home, or at the funeral home, and will provide you with all of the information required to help you make your decisions.

What happens now?

The body of your loved one is transferred to the hospital mortuary. The funeral director you have chosen will transport the body to their funeral home. It is important that a member of the family contacts the chosen funeral home after the death to provide them with the hospital’s details. The funeral director will then contact the hospital, and will be advised as to when the body can be transferred.

Can I view my loved one?

We understand that viewing a loved one can be an important part of the grieving process. It can help to accept the reality of the loss, and for some, it is another chance to say goodbye.

Talk to your funeral director if you would like to request a viewing; many funeral parlours have private family rooms or chapels where a private viewing can occur.

Please speak to your nurse on the ward if you wish to organise a viewing at the hospital mortuary, as an appointment will be required.

Remember, funeral directors come to the hospital as soon as they are notified by the family.

How long does my loved one stay at Mater Hospital Brisbane?

The funeral director cannot arrange a transfer until the cause of death certificate has been completed by your loved one’s doctor. The transfer is usually arranged within a day of the notification that paperwork has been completed.

How will our spiritual or religious needs be met?

Mater’s pastoral care workers are available to you during this time, and can be accessed via your nurse. External denominational ministers and ministers of all faith and traditions can be contacted via Mater’s switchboard.

Can I have a copy of the death certificate?

Mater Hospital Brisbane will send a cause of death certificate to the funeral director. The funeral director provides this information to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages so that a formal death certificate can be issued. The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages requires a minimum of two weeks to register a death following receipt of this information.

An immediate family member, legal custodian or guardian may apply for a death certificate once a death is registered. To obtain a death certificate, an application form needs to be completed. You will need to provide proof of ID and payment to have the certificate issued. For further information, please visit www.courts.qld.gov.au. The funeral director may assist you to obtain a death certificate and include the cost in their overall fees.

How do we pay for the funeral?

The person who contacts the funeral director and orders the funeral is legally responsible for the cost of the funeral. Funeral directors generally require a deposit, which is usually fifty per cent of the total cost of the funeral.

Often, the money for paying for the funeral will come from the deceased’s estate. Contact your bank or other financial institution to see if they will release funds from an account of the deceased person to pay for funeral expenses. The bank will usually require a copy of the account from the funeral home in order to release these funds.

It is important to negotiate with the funeral director immediately if payment will be delayed. Remember that the funeral director can assist you in negotiations with financial institutions or insurance companies.

You may wish to contact several funeral directors to compare fees. Most funeral directors require payment within twenty one days.

If you are having financial difficulties and cannot afford the cost of a funeral, please contact the Justice Department via 1300 304 605, or visit www.justice.qld.gov.au for a copy of the Burial Assistance fact sheet which details information about any assistance that may be available to you.

How can we access funds from insurance to pay for funeral costs?

Contact your insurance company to check the process for applying for funds to cover the cost of the funeral. Each company will have different rules regarding the ability to access payment to cover costs.

Some policies and companies allow for advance payments. The insurance company, on notification of a death, will forward appropriate forms to you for completion. If the insurance company requests official confirmation of the death, the funeral director may fax a copy of the cause of death certificate issued by the hospital to the insurance company.

Some insurance companies may insist on the receipt of an official death certificate issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages prior to processing applications. The official death certificate will take a minimum of two weeks to be issued once they receive necessary forms from the funeral director. In this instance, there may be a significant delay in accessing funding.

It is important to inform and negotiate with your funeral director if you think that payment will be delayed.

What about my loved one’s personal belongings?

Please speak to your nurse to ensure that you have been given all of your loved one’s personal belongings. If there are still items to be collected, contact the hospital ward as soon as possible after the death to arrange a suitable pick-up time.

What should I do about any medical aids or equipment used by my loved one?

Speak to your nurse if you are concerned about what to do with medical equipment.

We feel distressed following the death - is there someone we can speak to?

We understand this is a difficult time for you and your family. If you wish to speak to someone, please ask your nurse to contact a member of Mater Hospital Brisbane’s Social Work team or a pastoral care worker. You may also wish to speak to your general practitioner (GP) to organise a referral to a suitable medical professional. If you belong to a particular religious denomination, you may wish to speak to a member of that community to support you through this difficult time.

Contact details

Mater Hospital Brisbane
Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane Q 4101

For more information telephone 07 3163 8111
Social Work department: 07 3163 8031

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 13/11/2015.
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