Unattended Death and the Top 3 Things Families Should Do After Discovery

Deep red blood stain under carpet after an unattended death.

In developed countries, the proportion of people living alone has doubled since the 1960s. In the U.S. alone, almost 30% of households are made up of just one person now.

With more than 3 million people dying annually each year in the U.S., it only makes sense that a great number of those would be unattended deaths or “delayed discovery deaths.”

We read the horror stories about people around the world dying alone whose bodies aren’t discovered until months (or even years) after the fact — stories like that of Joyce Carol Vincent, a single 38-year-old woman whose body was found three years after she died in her London apartment, or that of senior citizen Robert Roll of Australia whose skeletal remains were discovered under his couch two years after he died at home of natural causes.

We read about them, hear about them, but we never really think something like that could happen to someone we love.

Unattended deaths are more common than people realize. At Alabama Bio-Clean delayed death decomposition cleanup is one of the top service requests we receive annually. Though death of a loved one is always difficult, we know from experience how especially traumatic an unattended death in the family can be, and we are committed to handling the situation with compassion and the dignity your loved one’s passing deserves.

There are many good reasons why you should hire a professional to clean up a decomposed body, but during our almost 10-year history of providing biohazard cleaning services to cities throughout Alabama, we’ve come to realize that reasonable thinking during a moment like this often goes out the window. However, there are a few important things you should do immediately should you ever find yourself needing to clean up after a dead body.

What to do When Someone Dies at Home Unexpectedly

An “unattended death” is defined as a death that occurs unexpectedly while the person is alone. Though it’s likely not top-of-mind for most individuals who discover an unattended death, there are potential human decomposition health hazards to consider.

Because body decomposition begins as soon as a person dies, bodies that go undiscovered for long periods of time decompose quickly, creating an area around the body contaminated by bodily fluids that can carry harmful bloodborne pathogens and other diseases. Therefore, an unattended death scene should always be treated as a biohazard. Here are three things you should do immediately when making an unattended death discovery.

  1. Notify the authorities, reach out to family and friends

    Even if the individual died of natural causes, it’s important to call the police to report the situation, arrange for a determination of the cause of death and for the body to be properly removed. Notifying family and friends of your loved one’s unattended passing will also provide a valuable support system to you during this difficult time.


  2. Refrain from cleaning up the scene by yourself

    Depending on the circumstances of the death, disturbing the scene could be detrimental to an investigation, but you could also expose yourself to serious illness. Porous materials saturated in bodily fluids are incredibly dangerous; airborne pathogens and harmful bacteria are released during the body’s decomposition process. Traditional home cleaning products are not up to the task of accurately cleansing, sanitizing and disinfecting an area or home exposed to human decomposition. Only a bioremediation team should be trusted to safely clean up after a dead body.


  3. Call a qualified local decomposition cleanup provider

    As little as 4 minutes is the time it takes for the decomposition of a body to begin. Bodily fluids can rapidly and unknowingly seep into carpets, between flooring and through bedding, also causing a persistent odor and creating a space that is unlivable. A professional bioremediation team is properly trained and attired, with personal protective equipment and respirators, to deal with just such a situation painlessly, restoring the home to a livable condition.

Restoring Peace of Mind in the Aftermath of a Death

We can’t take the trauma of the death of a loved one away, but at Alabama Bio-Clean it is our mission to leave each of our customers who have faced a delayed discovery death in a safer environment and more bearable frame of mind than when they first contacted us with their needs. Our commitment goes above and beyond providing biohazard cleanup — in most cases, insurance will reimburse you for our cleaning and remediation services, and we can help guide you through this.

Providing true 24-hour service, our trained, certified and professional biohazard technicians put their experience to work for you so that you can grieve, focus on your family and take the time to properly honor the one you have lost.