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Question about passing away in a nursing home…

11 replies

LittleOverWhelmed · 02/04/2023 20:54


sorry, not sure where else to post this, but hoping that someone might be able to answer.

when someone passes away in a nursing home, is anything normally done to make the deceased look more “asleep” before relative views?

my mother passed away about 5 years ago, I arrived just too late (like 10 / 20 minutes). They asked if I wanted to see her, I was apprehensive, but thought that I should. So did go in to her room. She was still as she had been when she passed away (suddenly with the nurses there - they were helping her get ready for bed): her eyes were still open and her mouth was still open (apparently common that they open their mouths like that). It wasn’t a peaceful sight. To be honest I was surprised (in the movies, someone closes their eyes etc).

they asked if I wanted to touch her, I couldn’t and I didn’t stay for long. I expect I could have if she didn’t look so distressed.

5 years on, I still wonder if it is normal or if generally things are done to make them look more peaceful 😔

OP posts:
Flojo1979 · 02/04/2023 20:58

Yes it’s normal. Sometimes the eyes and mouth won’t stay closed. Usually they would be laid flat within the first half an hour whilst they still can. Sorry this is troubling you, it’s so hard but it’s totally normal too.

Louisa4987 · 02/04/2023 21:01

I'm a police officer so bit different but it is fairly normal and unfortunately if the eyes and mouth are open it isn't often possible to close them (they just open again). I always try to make people look as peaceful as is possible if their families want to see them but it isn't always possible.

Sorry to hear this is still something on your mind but in my experience even people who have died completely peacefully can often look rather startled once they've passed and not all that peaceful but it's not normally a reflection of how they've been when they've died.

WhenDovesFly · 02/04/2023 21:03

Not sure about nursing homes OP. My father passed in a hospice and we were with him at the end. After several minutes the nurse asked If she could have a few minutes alone and when we went back in he had been straightened in the bed, mouth closed and they'd put a rose next to his head. He looked very peaceful and I appreciated their effort.

I'm a funeral arranger and have to say a lot of deceased that come to us from care homes arrive exactly as they've died, with no effort made to close eyes or mouth or even straighten arms or legs, which is easier to do immediately after death than several hours later. I always feel sad that no care has been taken.

Did you go to see your DM at the funeral home? They would have set her features at minimum and she would have looked more peaceful in the chapel.

LittleOverWhelmed · 02/04/2023 21:07

Thank you both.

Glad that it is normal.

I was very shell shocked at the time: had dashed from home - leaving DH and DS at home. So arrived at the nursing home alone and so it was a tough experience. Had hoped to get there in time, but didn’t. 😔. Had been there for three hours earlier, but gone home and was eating dinner when the call came: it was very quick.

not a good last memory. Not sure - in retrospect - if I did the right thing going to see her. Thought she would look peaceful and it would put my mind to rest. She didn’t and not sure that it did.

I am ok, but wanted to ask. Thank you for reassurance that it is fairly normal.

OP posts:
JustCheck · 02/04/2023 21:07

My Nana died in her nursing home, and she was tucked up in bed like she was fast asleep. When we arrived, they brought it a beautiful tea service on a tray. We opened the window for Nana (a tradition she believed in) and had a cup of tea. It touched us all greatly.

Chickenkorma64 · 02/04/2023 21:12

My mum died in a nursing home. We got there within the hour of her passing away. She was tucked up in bed as if asleep and they’d put a flower on her pillow. They brought us tea and biscuits on a tray. I felt quite comfortable saying my goodbyes to her, if you’d asked me beforehand, I’d have said I didn’t want to see her once she died, but I’m glad I did

albapunk · 02/04/2023 21:17

Care assistant here.

We close eyes and mouths, and if required we bed bath the person, fresh nightwear or clothing etc, comb hair and tuck them up as comfortably as if they were living. We will lie them flat with arms by their sides though, and usually one arm left out for the relative to hold.

However sometimes eyes and mouths don't stay closed, and sometimes depending on the person/family requests/circumstances we would only simply straighten the bedding and pillows etc

The vast majority of the time, we do as I said above though, and I like to chat to them as I go about my duties.Its the last thing we can do for the people in our care and I find it a privilege.

CrotchetyQuaver · 02/04/2023 21:27

We were with my mum when she passed, we pressed the call bell after she'd gone, the care assistant agreed with us but had to get the manager to officially say she was dead. We got taken off to the visiting tent (was during covid) for a cup of tea and some cake and many of the staff popped their heads round to offer condolences. Then we were asked if we wanted to go back and spend some time with her. They had "laid her out" as mum would have said and she was all neat and tidy, (brushed hair, eyes and mouth closed, nightie straightened etc) holding a rose. Very touching compared to some of the stories in this post. Then when the funeral director came to collect her, the staff lined up and made a guard of honour for her as she was wheeled out. I'm sad to learn that isn't the norm.

Thatsridiculous · 02/04/2023 21:36

My mum passed away in hospital - we didn’t get there on time. When we went in to see her, her eyes were closed but her mouth was open. I tried to close it but it kept falling open. I didn’t like that tbh but now know that it’s just what happens.

She looked very peaceful - she had fallen unconscious before she died so I’m not sure if her eyes were already closed anyway.

ShinyAppleDreamingOfTheSea · 02/04/2023 21:40

My mum passed away recently in a care home. I had spent the evening with her, gone home to get a few hours rest and she passed about an hour after I had left . They phoned me immediately and I went back to the home to say goodbye . They had washed and dressed her and combed her hair, I think they had placed her arms crossed over her chest . But she definitely wasn't my mum any more and I only stayed with her very briefly . Strangely, when my dad passed away (similarly in care home, but unexpectedly), he looked like he was sleeping.

Tellmethespoiler · 02/04/2023 21:42

Back in the day, the tradition was to put a coin on each closed eye and to put a piece of cloth around the jaw and head to keep the mouth closed.

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