Chapter 4: Factors that impact grief

Long term care and community care settings

What the grief experts say
Dr. Mary Lou Kelley, professor of social work and gerontology, talks about the need to provide long term care staff with the space to grieve residents' deaths. (3:22)Video transcript

“Our residents are scared and isolated, but it has to be this way. I try my best to support them but the mask and face shield make it really hard to connect the way I always have. I have days where I wonder if I could have done more…...” – Personal support worker, Long term care home

The COVID-19 crisis has hit many long term care facilities extremely hard. Those working in long term care, residential care, group homes or home care, often form a relationship or connection with residents and their families.   

These relationships bring benefits but can also increase our vulnerability.

Click on the switch button below to see what some of these are.

BenefitsVulnerabilities

You may form closer or deeper connections with certain people.

 

Your life may be greatly enriched.

 

You may feel an added meaning through the care you have provided.

You feel the pain of losing someone, either through their death or relocation.

 

You usually have little time to process your grief before someone new arrives.

 

If you work in community-based home care, you are often more isolated because there are no co-workers “on site” with you.

 

After the patient dies and the family leaves, you are alone and can feel abandoned

 

 

 

 










Because of the severity and highly contagious nature of the COVID-19 virus and the vulnerability of the residents and patients in these settings, many healthcare services, procedures, precautions, and changes have been implemented. These changes are necessary to protect patients as well as healthcare workers but may also bring further grief by isolating, altering, or limiting our interactions with patients, residents, and co-workers. For instance, there may not be time to say goodbye to families after a death has occurred.


 What may help? 

  • Acknowledge the connections you have made with patients and families and recognize that these connections remain meaningful even after the patient has died.
  • Remember that other losses, aside from a patient’s death, can contribute to feelings of grief. These can include ‘poor’ outcomes or a patient’s transfer to another unit or facility.
  • Remember that even positive outcomes, such as a patient’s discharge, can still mark the ‘end’ of that relationship for you.
  • Acknowledge the benefits you receive through your interactions with patients and families. These may stay with you much longer than feelings of grief.