Should Aged Care Workers be Allowed to Attend Resident Funerals?

It takes a special type of person to want to work in the aged care industry.

Being responsible for the welfare of another human being is one thing, but being entrusted with the wellbeing of someone else’s loved one at the most vulnerable point in their life is something else all together.

As is the case with all professions, the degree in which a person can be successful at their job comes down to the personality traits and passion that they have for their role.

These are things that can’t simply be taught but are essential for sustained success. And nowhere is the alignment between personality and employment more crucial than the aged care industry.

Effective aged care requires a level of empathy and inner strength that is not readily available in the workforce. While all workplaces have their pressures, the expectations from the families of residents can range from extremely high through to virtually impossible, and perceived failures often result in backlash.

In the case of an aged care worker, being empathetic towards a resident is a combination of both your ability to sense and understand their feelings, and then acting in a manner that takes these feelings into account and delivering the level of care necessary for a positive outcome.  

These types of actions are imperative in the welfare of an elderly person, and in many cases the end result is a trust and affection that evolves into a strong bond between carer and resident.

The bonds between residents and workers are forged over long periods of time and can go way beyond the realms of any normal employee/client relationship. Unfortunately though, the vast majority of aged care residents are nearing the end of their lives and eventually will pass away, resulting in real heartache for those that they shared their bond with.

Funerals are often seen as a last chance to celebrate someone’s life, or at the very least, a place to pay respect to the life that they had. But according to some insiders within the industry, this is not an opportunity that some aged care workers are being allowed to take.

*Nurse Wilson* has worked for numerous aged care residential facilities over the last decade and revealed to HelloCare that in some instances funeral attendance is forbidden by facilities regardless of relationship or the families wished for the carer to attend the funeral.

“I recall being told not to get too close to residents in my nursing training and to keep things professional. That’s all well and good in theory but good care comes from feeling and feelings don’t disappear when someone passes away, they hurt,” she said.

“I was encouraged not attend the funerals of residents that I shared a bond with on more than one occasion and told it was not appropriate, and I have heard of others within the industry who were told that they would be fired if they were to attend.”

While sentiments like this are not often publicised, some care providers choose to view these situations as a hallmark of good care as opposed to being unprofessional.

Ross Ferris who is the owner, Executive Chairman and CEO of aged care facility Autumn Aged Care shared his thoughts on the issue and outlined his facilities current stance.

“We as a care provider spend a lot of time with the residents and their families and we definitely allow and encourage our staff with strong bonds to attend the funerals of residents who have passed away. These people are emotionally invested in what they do, they are not robots,” he said.

While it is obviously understandable that facilities want to remain professional, the term itself is not conducive with the type of subtleties and nuanced flexibility that is required to deliver personalised care to an individual.

Different people have different requirements, and the only way to truly grasp what these requirements are, is by getting to know them on an emotionally intimate level.

It’s unfair to expect for an aged care worker to be able to invest in a resident to this level and not expect that they would want to pay their respects at their funeral.

Personally, if I was given the choice between professional care or emotionally invested care for my loved one, I would choose the person most willing to invest in the emotional wellbeing of a resident.

Fortunately, despite regulation, there are still a few people around like *Nurse Wilson* who are willing to give the level of care that they feel is required, rather than what is mandated.

“They told us hugging residents is not professional either, but if I know that someone needs a hug, I give them one,” said Nurse Wilson.

 

The image above does not depict or represent the story within the article or represent HelloCare in anyway. 

The name of the nurse within the story has been changed for privacy reasons.

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  1. It doesn’t take a special kind of person to work in Aged Care. Anyone can do it with the right training. Empathy and compassion can be taught. God does not give this to you. This is mythology. Men and woman can be empathetic and compassionate. The only reason why most Aged Care workers are women is because caring is gender stereotyped and different genders are taught to behave in different ways from an early age. Attendance at funerals is a private matter. If families want Aged Care workers to attend then this is perfectly fine however if the family has issues with the care provided (NB. Likely scenario given the appalling standard of care in some nursing homes.) then it is probably best if the Aged Care worker finds a different way to celebrate this life that they cared for (and supposedly valued).

    1. Gian- it does take a special kind of person to be a carer. Very few people are willing to wipe
      a grown adults bum. They can cope with their own baby, but not a full grown adult that has forgotten
      how to go to the toilet.

  2. Yes they should if they want we are working in residents homes for how ever long you get to form an attachment to some people and also there families. It also nice for carers to have closure when a resident passes away as well as family and friends.

    1. Yes I worked for many years in Aged Care and always attended Funeral for people I had a special bond with.

  3. Empathy and compassion cannot taught…it is part of our nature..kindness can be shown and taught.
    Loneliness is a huge factor for the Aged, for most that bond is the most important part of Aged Care.

  4. Where my Husband is, in Country Victoria, the staff do attend funerals, or watch online. The staff also do a guard of honour, when a resident passes. Which I find very supportive.

  5. You can be professional and emotionally invested. I have attended many funerals and have had care workers attend outreach parents funerals. We saw it as enormous respect. And that is why I attended also.
    I was told in my nursing training that I was there to work and not talk to the patients. I obviously rejected that. I give and receive significant respect in my community based role and expect the same of my workers, with emotional investment topping off their professional practice.

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