This truth is made even more poignant as, in the months and years leading up to that inevitability, close bonds between carer and care recipient often form, rooted in mutual respect, shared stories and laughter, countless acts of generosity and abundant kindness.
Aged care staff and home care workers often mourn deeply when the person they have cared for dies, especially in those special circumstances when a close bond forms over the course of the caring period.
For new carers, losing their first client or resident can be a profound and deeply emotional time. A HelloCare reader has shared on our Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook about the experience, and has asked for guidance about the best way to pay their respects to a much-loved home care client.
We were surprised to read in the comments that some providers don’t allow aged care staff to attend funerals, so we decided to take a look at how providers deal with this sensitive issue for their care staff.
Coming to terms with grief and loss
Angelika Koplin has worked in aged care since 1992 in roles ranging from personal carer to CEO. She is currently principal consultant with Aged Care Strategies and Support.
Koplin says it’s very natural that when someone you have come to care deeply for dies, you want to pay your respects to the person, and acknowledge the passing with their family and loved ones.
Providers can take a range of different approaches.
Memorial services on site, signing of condolence cards and offering counselling can all be useful ways to help staff deal with the emotions they might be feeling after the loss of a resident or client, says Koplin.
“Some facilities put together a journal or book about the resident’s life in the facility, with photos and stories, and staff can contribute if they wish to do so.”
Koplin told HelloCare that when the first resident of a new facility she worked in died, they named a wing of the home after her.
In regards to attending funerals, Koplin said staff should respect the family’s wishes and also follow the provider’s protocols.
Staff can only attend funerals in their own time
From HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group, we can see that some aged care providers are happy for staff to attend the funerals of residents or clients they have formed close bonds with.
However, some providers prefer staff not to attend. Some providers nominate a representative to go to the funeral, and others say staff can only attend funerals in their own time, not during work hours.
When providers prevent aged care staff from attending funerals, it can be difficult for them to accept, leaving them feeling frustrated they have not been able to pay their respects.
When Koplin asked one of the finest nurses she knows how she has coped with palliating and saying goodbye to so many residents over the course of her long career, the nurse simply answered, “It’s a privilege.”
“That probably says it all,” Koplin said.
Perhaps it’s not the saying goodbye that’s so important, it’s the opportunity to care for the person, value them and get to know them in the first place.
What do you think? Have you been banned from attending a resident or client’s funeral? Share your stories in the comments below or email [email protected].