family grief and loss of loved one

Dealing with family is not easy….It is very sad, but as a caregiver, we all know it is a reality. Working with the elderly in any senior living setting, whether it be assisted living, home care, memory care, or personal care homes we will deal with losing a resident at some point. In the past, the passing of a resident was dealt with quietly and not much was said about it because no one wanted to upset the other residents.

I am happy to say, the approach to dealing with the grief of a loved one has changed. Today, residents are given the opportunity to deal with the loss of their friends however they choose. Some may choose to celebrate the life of their friend and want to enjoy the friendship they had by reflecting on their time spent together during meals, activities, etc., and others may want to just be alone.

The same goes for the caregivers that spent countless hours providing care to the resident. Every staff member will also need time to deal with the loss. At some point, it is always nice if the facility can provide a time to come together and share memories and say a final goodbye.

Dealing with family members of the resident is usually handled a little differently. It is nice if the family can be included in the celebration of memories of their loved ones…if they are ready. A few things to remember when dealing with the families:

• If the family is bedside during the final hours, offer them your support. It is nice if a caregiver/administrator can offer to stay with the resident and give the family the opportunity to take a walk for some fresh air, refresh with a nice shower, or just provide them with coffee or snacks.
• Remember, not all families are going to grieve the same. Let them lead the way!
• Some families may be traveling from out of town, if the facility has a vacant room, it is nice to offer them to stay at the facility instead of adding the stress of them trying to find a hotel in a town they may not be familiar with. Regardless, at a minimum, be sure to ask if there is anything you can do to help them. They may need help with resident possessions, paperwork, etc. NEVER pack up a resident without a discussion with the family!

If you notice a co-worker or family member having a hard time dealing with the loss, consider trying the following:
• Be a good listener: let them talk if they want to, or just be there for them in silence.
• Help them carry the burden: Oftentimes, caregivers feel guilty when they lose a resident. Sometimes they need to be reminded that the staff did all they could, as age and diagnosis play the major role in the passing of the resident.
• Offer assistance: If they need to take a few minutes to deal with what has happened, offer to cover their workload while they step away.

There are many other ways to deal with the loss of a loved one, but these are some of the most common and most helpful in this time of need.

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