2012-02-13

House Transfers


   This is the most unpredictable and delicate form of transfer.  Because of this it is the most interesting and also the most difficult.  It involves going into someone private residence to remove a dead body, often in front of family or friends.


One must always be on guard and act professionally when doing a house transfer. You should never forget that not only are you moving a body, a loved one but you are also doing it in someones private home. It is incredibly personal for most people.


Here is the basic procedure:
  1. Get the paperwork.  Before you do anything make sure they have the appropriate papers.  If there is no DC or interim then something signed by a doctor or other professional which declares the person dead and give you authority to remove them.
  2. Scope out the place, you can do this while sorting the paperwork.  What you want to look for is a way in and out as well as what the situation and residence are like.  Will you need to move furniture?  Can you get the stretcher to the body and back?  Are there any stairs or tight corners?  And other similar questions.  Do this
  3. before you get the stretcher out.
  4. Bring gloves and wear them when needed.  Keep them quietly in your pocket and actually wear them, some find it awkward to put on glove in font of the family but it is your health at stake.  The family may object to you wearing gloves as they do not see the deceased as ‘dirty’ or ‘diseased’.  But again, it is your health and helps preserve the deceased.
  5. Assess the situation before starting.  You do not want to be in an awkward situation where you realise the stretcher will not fit through the door with a body. Knowing what you are dealing with and talking it through with your partner can avoid an embarrassing issue later.
  6. Talk to the family or those who are watching.  If appropriate tell them what you are going to do.  Even before putting on the gloves let them know and why.  Not only will this make them more comfortable but they might even help.
  7. Getting them involved.  This is debatable and not recommended unless absolutely necessary.  The family or whoever is there may be quite willing and able to help, but they are not trained or experienced.  If anything goes wrong because of them it would be your fault. In situations where it would be dangerous or very impractical not to get their help, and they are willing and able, then ask them.  Other times the family just
  8. want to help and doing so will make them happier.  If this is the case find something simple and easy for them.
  9. Check for valuables!!  This is one of the most important steps, but check for valuables on the body before you put them in the stretcher.  Also ask the family if anything is to go with them such as clothing.
Dealing with the Residence:
   Explain what you have to do and the procedure before you do it.  This will help them understand and prevent any unpleasant surprises.  If it is appropriate get them involved in the process.  Not only can this make it easier for you but it makes them feel better.  Someone I work with is great at this.  He at least gets them to at least help slide the body onto our stretcher and they always appreciate it.  So if the job is difficult or dangerous and the residence are willing and able to help ask them.

   I personally prefer the family or friends be out of the room when transferring the body to the stretcher.  This is because it allows me to be rougher and work as I  normally would without worrying about what others think.  Sometimes it is impossible to move a body ‘delicately’ and watching it could look bad.

   You must always wear gloves on all transfers.  However with house transfers the residence may take offence to this.  To them their loved one is not dirty or diseased.  This is not about dirt or disease, most bodies are clean.  This is about simple hygiene and cleanliness for the body as well as you.  Explain to the residence about the gloves before you put them on.  Keep them comfortable and informed about the process.


   Never demand, never expect and never judge.  These are all important when dealing with residence.  Demanding things will make them unhappy and uncooperative.  Expecting things will disappoint you or leave you high and dry.  And never judge, everyone is different.  While some people appear uncaring or cold they may simply be grieving, or did not know the deceased well.  How sad are you that they are dead?

The Unpredictability:
   The driveway is the first issue you may find.  Many places do not have driveways meaning you need to ‘load up’ on the street.  Just do what you have to do, but be quick and discrete about it.  Other times there is a driveway but it is impractical or difficult to reverse into.  Do not be fooled, reverse in if you can.  This will make loading up easier and then you can just drive out.  Reversing out is always more difficult than reversing in.

   Stairs and doors are a nightmare.  Not only are they difficult to get around but they are often dangerous.  Stairs in particular can be slippery, steep and have tight corners.  One person has a story about how the stairs collapsed as he carried a heavy body out of a house.  It resulted in him being up to his waist in stairs and with a heavy stretcher with a body on top of him.

   Furniture is also an issue.  It is often in the way of getting the body onto the stretcher, or getting the stretcher out of the place.  This can be anything from a little table by the door to a washing machine.  Either way feel free to move it, ask first if the residence are about but always move it if it is in the way.  Asking sometimes results in them helping, so never hesitate to ask, or simply get them to help if you need.  Try to put the furniture back if you can, but this is not always impossible.  And remember that when moving anything electrical or plumed in to turn it off at the source and unplug it first.

   The location of the body itself is often a hazard in itself.  The deceased may be on the floor of a tiny bathroom with water everywhere and not enough room for the stretcher.  Or they might be in the middle of a large bed.  Beds are surprisingly difficult as you cannot get a solid or stable foot hold to move the body.

   The deceased will not have been cleaned in most cases.  While hospitals and nursing homes will usually clean the body, or at least neaten them up the residence of houses will not.  be ready for a dirty or messy body.

Three Relevant Transfers:
   One transfer I remember was very interesting in terms of dealing with residence.  We arrived, scoped out the place and situation.  There were two people there, the son and his friend.  they were fairly emotional and tense but very nice and easy to deal with.  We are about to head to the car and get the stretcher when they ask if they can watch.  We explain that it might not be pretty but are free to watch if they like.  After unloading the stretcher we come back, slide the door open and are confronted by over 40 people in the room.  The deceased’s whole family was there, from his cousins and children to his grandparents and friends.  To say this made us feel awkward is a serious understatement.  Imagine trying to work with over 40 emotional people watching your every move.  It all went well, but i will always remember the surprise of all those people and the awkwardness.

   On another transfer I had to deal with some stairs.  While the family were amazingly nice and friendly the job itself was particularly difficult.  The body was over 6 foot tall and he was not light.  The door was right next to the stairs with very little standing room let alone enough room to carry a stretcher.  And then there were the stairs.  They were slippery wooden, had no railing, a tight 180 bend in the middle and went up two stories.  We ended up standing him vertically in the stretcher to get him out the door.  Then slowly carrying him down the stairs.  It was very difficult and dangerous.

   My final transfer story is a little more ‘graphic’.   The deceased was on the floor in a tiny bathroom.  She had slipped getting out of the bath and died on the floor.  There was a puddle of water (or at least what I hope was water) all over the floor.  Luckily there was no blood at least.  Because of the small size of the room there was not enough room to get the stretcher in and barely enough room to stand.  After much struggling and tricky maneuvering we got her onto a sheet and then dragged her out into the hall where we put her on the stretcher.

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   This makes the whole procedure very personal for those involved.  So remember, the most important thing is to be delicate and professional!!  Discretion is the corner stone of this industry and it is never more important as with a house transfer.  Most times the family/friends will understand what you have to do, but try to be as nice and delicate about it as possible.
   As for the unpredictability, with a hospital or nursing home you will generally know what to expect.  However with a house transfer you will rarely know what the situation is before you get there.  And peoples residence are rarely designed to get a body out of.  Think about how hard it is to move something like a couch or fridge into or out of your place.  Now imagine doing it with a body, the weight is about 60-80kg at the lightest with the trolley and you have to be more delicate than you can be with furniture. 


2 comments:

  1. Perhaps under The Unpredictability section, you could include dogs or other outside concerns, such as parking, driveways, etc.

    Really enjoying your blog here, btw.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is good info, your blog is a true gem and refreshing. In this morbid industry, its good to see there are real people involved

    ReplyDelete

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