Working in the long-term care industry, we deal with the end of life on a regular basis. Still, it’s a difficult topic, and it’s important for us to be educated on what we can do to serve our residents, along with their loved ones, during this time.
You can help make this time easier and more peaceful by making comfort services available to residents, or even to their friends and family. This might include things like offering a warm blanket, aromatherapy or massages. By letting residents and their loved ones know that these services are available and helping coordinate them, you’ll contribute to a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere. These small comforts can make all the difference during this transitional time. Offering a basket that includes all of the comforts of home for the family member while they are away could ease their burden. Including toothpaste, hand towels, lotion, snacks, magazines and personally customizing it to meet the families immediate needs while they are attending to their loved one.
You can also play a role in providing closure for your other residents when they lose a friend. When someone passes away, other residents may not get a chance to say goodbye—the friend they always sat next to dinner, or their Friday night bingo pal of several years is with them one day and gone the next.
Consider organizing a simple bedside memorial after someone passes away. This could include friends and family members, or simply other seniors at your facility. Depending on your organization, you might coordinate this event yourself, or ask a chaplain to preside.
Another way to respect the memory of those who have passed away is to honor their departure. While many facilities have previously taken bodies out quietly through a back door or side door, many are now making the transition to having residents leave the same way they came in. Encouraging this practice at your facility is another way to provide closure and help your other seniors deal with the difficult reality of losing friends and neighbors.
Of course, the most important thing you can do during this time is to be mindful of your role as a customer service professional and show empathy and compassion to both residents and their loved ones. Even though we deal with the end of life very frequently, it can be a sad and scary time for those going through it, and it’s our job to do everything we can to make it more peaceful.
How do you provide comfort to residents and their loved ones during the end of life?