Who is notifed, next of kin or Power of Attorney, when someone dies?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Does a nursing/assisted living facility have to notify the next of kin when a patient dies? I am not the health care proxy or I do not have a power of attorney, a friend does, and he has refused to let me have any medical/information at all regarding my uncle. Myself and my sister are the only two living nieces/relatives.

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Federal law requires that a nursing facility must notify the resident's legal representative or interested family member when there is "a significant change in the resident's physical, mental, or psycho-social status." Death has been held to be one of those significant changes. And although the law seems to require the nursing home only to notify the legal representative or interested family members, most will agree to notify both types of people as a matter of courtesy and kindness.

But first you and your sister will need to get on the facility's radar screen, if you're not already there.

Contact the administrator of the nursing facility and explain your situation. It should be relatively easy to track down his or her contact information, especially if the facility has a website; most do these days. Make it easy to contact you"‚ÄĚproviding alternative phones and an email address, and perhaps designating one of you to be notified, then tell the other.

If the administrator seems uncooperative, contact the facility's ombudsman. An ombudsman is a person outside the facility, not associated with the ownership, who is trained to investigate problems and endeavors to resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, residents in residential care facilities. You can find the local one at http://www.nursinghomealert.com/ombudsman.html.