Care of the body

Body care options

Without respiration and circulation, a body will show signs of natural deterioration. There is no way of predicting how quickly this will happen and to what extent, it will depend on the cause of death, effects of medications, their physical condition and climate.

After an expected death we advise families to slow down, to take time to acknowledge their loss and say goodbye. If the person has died while in a hospice, rest home or hospital, with the cooperation of the staff, they can help to layout (wash and dress) the person if they wish – a natural extension of the care they had given them in life.

The room should feel safe and calm for this transition from life to death. We suggest removing the clutter and medical equipment and arranging the furniture so visitors feel comfortable.

At this point you will need to make informed decisions about their body care:

  • Embalming
  • CoolCare
  • Home Care


Embalming is akin to a surgical procedure. Solvents, preservatives and additives are injected into the arterial system flushing the blood from the body, slowing down the natural process of deterioration.

The benefit of embalming is that it allows family members and friends to confidently spend time with the deceased in their home or the funeral home for a week or more.

In most circumstances embalming is optional but it is a legal requirement in the case of the body being repatriated to another country.

A condition of a Natural Burial however, is that the deceased is not embalmed and we would recommend the following options.


CoolCare is for families who have decided against embalming or opted for a Natural Burial. The body is transferred to a temperature controlled cool room until the day of the funeral. They can remain safely in CoolCare for a week or more should funeral arrangements be delayed for any reason.

Choosing CoolCare will limit the opportunities to view the deceased after death.

Home Care

For families who want to be more ‘hands on’, the deceased can be capably kept at home until the day of the funeral. Family members are responsible for keeping the deceased cool with icepacks (or frozen hot water bottles – be prepared, and have these all ready in the freezer). You can hire industrial portable AC units in Wellington but these are quite large and cumbersome. More homes now have a heat pump with an air conditioning setting.

The deceased can remain on a bed or be placed in a coffin in the coolest room. If body shows marked signs of deterioration they can be placed in the coffin and the lid can be closed. The dignity of the deceased must always be respected.

We advise no longer than two – three days in the home before burial or cremation.

If you choose to take care of the deceased at home, we have a step by step guide we can email you.