What to do when someone dies at home in Alberta

Mallory J Greene
Mallory J Greene
June 11th 2024 - 4 minute read
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Navigating the immediate steps following the death of a loved one can be overwhelming. This guide outlines essential actions to take after the a death occurs in the to help guide you through this difficult time.

Navigating the immediate steps following the death of a loved one can be overwhelming. This guide outlines essential actions to ensure safety, secure a formal pronouncement of death, and manage subsequent arrangements after a death occurs in the home in Alberta. From contacting emergency services and funeral homes to obtaining necessary documentation and addressing practical matters, this resource provides clear and compassionate guidance to help you through this difficult time.

Immediate Actions: Ensuring Safety and Pronouncement of Death

  1. Check for Danger: If the death is unexpected or you suspect foul play, ensure the area is safe and contact emergency services (911) immediately.
  2. Pronouncement of Death: A formal "pronouncement of death" is legally required. Contact one of the following:
  • The Deceased's Doctor: If the death was expected (e.g., terminal illness, hospice care).
  • Emergency Services (911): If the death was unexpected or the person wasn't under medical care. A medical professional (paramedic or medical examiner) will determine and pronounce the death.

Specifics for Palliative Care in Alberta

If the deceased was receiving home-based palliative care:

  • Contact the Palliative Care Team: They will guide you through what to expect and facilitate a doctor or nurse visiting to pronounce the death.
  • Funeral Home Arrangements (Optional): If you've chosen a funeral home in advance, you can contact them. The palliative care team might assist with coordination.

What Happens After Pronouncement of Death

1) Contact a Funeral Home

  • Pre-Arrangements: If the deceased had a pre-planned funeral, the designated funeral home will be specified.
  • Selecting a Funeral Home: If there are no pre-arrangements, choose a reputable funeral home in your area. Search online, get referrals, or consult the Alberta Funeral Services Association (https://afsa.org/).

2) Arranging Transportation

  • The funeral home will carefully and respectfully transport the deceased from your home to their facility.

3) Obtaining the Medical Certificate of Death (MCD)

  • The doctor, paramedic, or medical examiner completes the MCD, stating the cause of death.
  • You'll need several copies of the MCD for administrative tasks. The funeral director can advise you on how many to obtain.

4) Registering the Death

  • The funeral home normally registers the death with Alberta Vital Statistics on your behalf. This must be done within 5 days of the death date.
  • You'll receive a Registration of Death form, serving as proof for settling the deceased's affairs.

Addressing Practical Matters in the Coming Days

  • Inform Others: Notify close family, friends, employers, and any relevant organizations about the passing. The funeral home can assist with obituaries or provide guidance.
  • Organize Affairs: Gather important documents like the will, insurance policies, financial records, and contact information for accounts of the deceased.
  • Support Systems: Reach out to your support network, grief counselors, or faith-based communities for emotional support.

Additional Considerations

  • Government Benefits: Explore eligibility for funeral assistance or survivor benefits through Alberta Seniors and Housing or contacting Service Canada.
  • Estate Matters: Consult an estate lawyer if necessary for assistance with wills, probate, and managing the deceased's assets.
  • Prioritize Self-Care: Give yourself time and permission to grieve. Don't hesitate to ask for emotional support or practical help from loved ones.

Important Resources


The loss of a loved one is deeply personal and painful. While attending to these practical matters is necessary, prioritize your emotional well-being and seek support from those around you during this difficult time.

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