How Professional Caregivers Grieve the Death of a Resident

Last week when I spoke at the Pennsylvania Assisted Living Association spring conference, I talked about the grief professional caregivers experience when a resident dies.

I shared several stories, including one about my Grandpa Stan who suffered a stroke late in life. The stroke robbed Grandpa of his independence and the ability to do almost everything that brought him pleasure. To say he was cantankerous the last few years of his life would be a phenomenal understatement.

And yet, there was a laundry lady in the nursing facility who demonstrated to us, through a simple act of kindness, that Grandpa deserved to be shown respect––even in death.

I regret that I never learned her name or had the opportunity to thank her.

I think it’s safe to assume that most professional caregivers perform a multitude of small, kind acts every single day. It must seem like most of their actions go unnoticed. I hope that even if they don’t receive the appreciation or recognition they deserve, that they will feel rewarded in knowing that they are making the last stages of life more comfortable and dignified for the people in their care. 

When a resident dies, their caregivers grieve. They miss the person, and often they miss the family members who no longer come to visit. They are aware that in a few days someone new will be moving into the deceased person’s room. Adjusting to the loss and the rapid change isn’t easy. That’s why it’s important to have some kind of a ceremony to say goodbye and to help them accept the next person who will occupy the room. Perhaps the laundry lady who ironed Granpa Stan’s shirts did the same for other people who died. Maybe it was her way of dealing with death and saying, “Your life mattered, and you will be missed.” 

If you would like to see more videos about managing the caregiver grief, please take a moment to check out my Caregiver Survival Course DVDs.