‘What happens if I die alone at home?” is a question that was posed in our Facebook group, Before I Go: End of Life Conversations.
Sadly, if you haven’t thought about this in advance, then what happened to Grace’s Dad could happen to you or someone you know.
He was living alone, aged 74, was fit and healthy, going out and about with no problems at all.
Unfortunately he died suddenly and completely unexpectedly, and this was only discovered after 3 days when his daughter found him face down on the kitchen floor. Because the weather had been hot, his body had started to deteriorate, and as you can imagine this was incredibly distressing for everyone involved.
How could it have been avoided?
Well, first of all it means admitting that you could die at any time. It’s not dependent on age, although the older you are the more likely you are to die, simply because of your age.
Arguably, everyone who lives alone could have plans in place as to what would happen if you fell and couldn’t reach for help, let alone if you died while on your own.
So here’s what you need to think about in advance if you don’t want to die alone at home (and thanks for the inspiration from the comments in the Facebook thread on this)
Set up a system with a close neighbour as to what your usual pattern of daily life is (so that if it is interrupted, they know to check on you). For instance, agree that if your curtains/blinds haven’t been opened by a certain time each day, that the neighbour will call a family member. (This is how my Mum discovered that her father had died – the neighbour called and when my Mum went round she found him sitting in his armchair in front of the TV (which was still on), with his hand still around his mug of cocoa. It was clearly a sudden and massive heart attack about which he would have known nothing).
If you have pets, set up a system with someone to take care of them when necessary – and this system could also apply to you too, as if the pet has not been fed/walked, it means something is wrong.
Agree to post the results of any crossword, Wordle, or other game that you do daily with a family member or neighbour.
Give family member or close friends contact details to at least one of your neighbours, so you can make sure if you die alone that someone will be investigating soon.
Ask the person you know who lives alone to ring you each morning, letting it ring just twice, so you know all is well. If they don’t get a call, they will know to check on you.
Set up a family/friends Whats App or Telegram group where you are in touch daily, so if you don’t post, someone else will investigate
Personal care alarm system – be willing to wear something round your neck or on your wrist which would enable you to contact someone if you fall and are still alive (doesn’t work if you have died immediately of course, which is why the above systems would also be needed).
If you, or someone you know, is older, setting up a practical system like one of the above may (or may not!) be relatively easy to contemplate. But it applies even if you are not in the ‘older’ age bracket.
If you have any other ideas about what to do if you should die alone, or know of other systems, please advise in the comments!
And if you want more info about how to prepare ahead of your own death, please look at the Before I Go Solutions Workbook, which gives you all the questions that need to be answered, with space to write in your answers.