Nov 14, 2018

Resident Death: Should All Family Members be Notified?

The death of a family member can be one of the most significant and difficult moments of a person’s life. Unfortunately, the finality of death assures that there will be no second chances regarding your opportunity to pay your respects, or do what you feel is necessary to honour a person’s passing.

Aged care facilities on the other-hand actually have a working relationship with death, and while the death of a resident is obviously significant, people dying can often be commonplace within facilities due to the age and health problems of residents.

Residential facilities do their best to accommodate the needs of a deceased residents family, but the constraints of an environment with people who require constant care, can often mean that employees have very little time to notify and make arrangements regarding a death.

Notifying a family of a death, can be one of the most difficult processes that aged care employees deal with.

The majority of good facilities designate a point of contact for this call, or calls of significance relating to a resident, upon their admission into the facility.

Although there may be multiple contact numbers of family members pertaining to a resident, the majority of facilities instruct employees to only inform the predetermined first contact of that resident.

This person is then expected to inform other family members of significant news.

Unfortunately, there have been instances where the designated family member was notified of the death of a resident, but other members of the family failed to receive the information and have missed their chance to view the body and say their goodbyes

How Do Problems Arise?

Families can have complex interrelationships and in some cases there are disputes between family members that can result in animosity and a refusal to communicate with one another.

Simmering tensions between these family members can also be heightened by the stress of having a relative whose health is in decline.

These circumstances can result in confusion, leading to the information not being spread throughout the family, or in some rare instances this vital information can actually be withheld out of spite.

Breakdown in communication is one of the root causes of family going unnotified of the death of a loved one.

While employees of aged care facilities may sense that there is tensions between a residents family members, a facility will only contact multiple people with the news of a deceased relative if they have been specifically asked to do so.

The onus is on the families with a loved one in residential care to know who the designated point of contact is, and make arrangements with the facility if they feel that their relationship with the point of contact is not strong enough to ensure that information will be forthcoming.

Aged care employees can’t be expected to know the inner workings of every residents family relationships, and it is reasonable to assume that the point of contact will pass this news on, if it has not been specified to do otherwise.

But employees should be mindful to reiterate the importance of passing on the information of their loved ones death to other family members, when they make the call to the designated point of contact for that family.

Whether the deceased is resident of your facility or a member of your family, it’s vital that decisions regarding the first contact are put in place early and that communication between parties is made in the case of any changes.

The last thing that anyone should want, is for a simple miscommunication to deny someone from saying their final goodbyes to someone that they care about.

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  1. You seem to want to continue to add to the list of things for which an aged care provider and their team members are responsible. Family dynamics can be more than dysfunctional – they can be down right dangerous to the well being of team members and other family members. Yes one can remind the main contact to advise other family members but at the end of the day the carers mourn as well – many indeed attending the funeral. It is the responsibility of the provider to respect the wishes as outlined by the customer – and not to go outside that. After more than 20 years in the industry I can tell you even the nominated family contact can be abusive if you wake them up to give them the news.

    1. Thank you for your comment here. I’m not sure if you had a chance to read the entire article however we mention the need for one point of contact as it can’t be responsible for calling all family members.

  2. It is Imperative to have one point of contact for all notifications. At our facility we ask upon admission and normally notify POA in all matters from medication changes, falls, accounts and deaths.
    If you have more than one contact person inevitably someone will feel alienated at some point.
    There are more disfunctional families out there than you would possibly imagine, sometimes stemming from childhood right up to fighting about going into a nursing home.
    Facilities just can’t let themselves get caught up in a family fued!

  3. One point of contact only.
    It isn’t just a matter of “hello sorry to tell you that your Mother has just died /passed away” and hang up.
    Relatives want details, times, info about what to do next etc.Time is needed to allow for a sympathetic interaction between the designated staff member and the Relative/ significant other.
    Staff just don’t have time to contact more than one person apart from the Doctor. Funeral director etc.
    Residents don’t often die at a time when more staff might be about usually having handover, more often at night with minimal staff on duty..

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