Should aged care staff be banned from attending funerals?

Surgical mask on tombstone

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].

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  1. o worked in aged care for many years and believe that they should be able to go. this is all part of grieving to the owners of the facility’s its all aboutmoney

    1. That’s not true, for God’s sake get off your soap box. If all the carers went to a funeral who would be looking after the residents in the home !
      We support one carer to represent all carers by attending the funerals but they can’t all go. Often off duty carers attend and that is a lovely sentiment.

  2. When my Mum died one of the Nursing Attendants sobbed in the corner of the room. This was bizarre because I had never seen this person before. Staff from this Aged Care facility also attended my mother’s funeral. I am not even clear if they were invited. This was after I complained about about the smell of urine in Mum’s room due to her having to urinate on the floor due to lack of appropriate toileting. In my opinion Aged Care staff should attend debriefing instead of sobbing and they definitely should not attend funerals. Neglecting someone and then turning up at the funeral is inappropriate and unnecessary. If you want to show your respect for someone don’t leave their flat clogged hearing aids in a tub at the nursing station. Don’t lose their glasses. Don’t leave them in their room on a flat air bed with a fractured pelvis with only a blaring TV for company. Steam clean their room so it doesn’t stink of urine. Medicate the person properly so they are not in pain as they are dying. Show kindness and compassion instead of taking about $1200 a week for care that is not delivered or simply rationed to deliver ‘profit’ for shareholders. Our dog gets better care than this.

  3. I worked in a small private facility in tongala, and we had a chapel that most families had the option of having the funeral there, which all staff who were able to come off the floor to pay their respects could. In my current facility we are also allowed to go to the funerals. We also have a memorial shelf, where we put a photo of them and candles (fake) on the shelf till another residents Goes. We also send a card to the families and again 3 months later to check in.

  4. I have attended a few funerals in the sixteen years that I have been a carer in a Nursing Home. (Maybe 5 or so.) For me, it was about respect for the deceased – It wasn’t about representing the Nursing Home to make them look good… It was personal for me as I was paying respects for a person that I cared about. I went with my work partner, the family knew us and we didn’t wear our work uniform. I only attended funerals on my own time. I know of a work colleague who attended a funeral in her work uniform and the family member of the deceased stood and addressed the congregation with “The Nursing Home Killed My Mother!” She was so embarrassed!

  5. Its and individual thing some staff will want to others not- you may wish to attend some residents funerals and not others.

    There have been times when the only people at the service have been staff as they had no one else to attend – how terrible would it have been to allow that lovely gentleman to go his final journey without some one to say “goodbye you were loved and well thought of”

    When I was a manager I would encourage any who wished to go to do so.

  6. I have attended a few funerals of residents I have known and loved. They organised a bus to take staff members to 1 funeral. Others we went in our own time. Some residents you have known longer or have a special connection. The families appreciated seeing the staff there, knowing their family member was special to us. I think it’s shows respect and it is really appreciated.

  7. The facility I work for allows off-duty staff to attend a resident’s funeral, but we also have an in-house Memorial Service run by our Lifestyle staff to allow residents, who usually also cannot attend the funeral to say goodbye to their friend. This was following a suggestion from a resident many years ago who was unable to attend the graveside service of a friend and fellow resident and wished there was another way to say goodbye to them. Staff are also welcomed and encouraged to attend. The service allows for sharing of memories from both staff and residents.

  8. In the 86 bed facility where I was the only RN, and multiple times the Acting Manager also, we had a Chapel, and a Pastor who was employed full time.
    My 45 years as a Palliative Care Nurse in the community, and Hospice Clinical Nurse Manager for 3 years gave me the background to care for my workers, friends and families in the Home. If anyone felt the need to attend an outside funeral, they were accommodated. A much-loved worker suicided, and we were all in mourning, so an outside therapist was brought in to lead us through our grief journey.
    Please allow the normal grieving and goodbye rituals to occur without cold harassment.

  9. ‘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.’ It would be good to hear more about this aspect of care rather than the aged care bashing we are all used to.

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