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Homecare: Dealing with Bereavement & Grief
I have worked in social care for a number of years and have found there to be one major negative aspect.
As a Homecare worker you are regularly visiting Service Users 3 or 4 times each day over 4 or 5 days each week, 48 weeks each year. You build up a rapport with the Service User and their family members. You become part of lots of families in the role. Yes there is a Code of Conduct that should be adhered to at all times and professional boundaries should be maintained. But that is extremely hard when you have been caring for someone over a long period of time. And it is a sad inevitability, but those Service Users will die. How very sad that in the course of their duties a Homecare worker regularly experiences this type of loss and bereavement.
So what should you do when a Homecare worker loses someone they are particularly close too?
If they had lost a family member or loved one you would revert to your HR policies including paid bereavement leave and flexible working. This is clearly a different scenario but the employee can be just as devastated by the loss of a Service User as a loved one. As their employer you have a key role in supporting your workers through these difficult and sadly unavoidable times. You can offer compassion and support by writing a sympathy card or letter or asking the worker to come in and to talk to you over a cup of tea. This week I met with a member of staff who had lost a Service User she was particularly close to. I expressed my sympathy for her loss but she explained her sadness wasn’t just loosing the service user, but after four years of visiting the house she will miss the daughter, the grandson and the two dogs. She had become such an intrinsic part of a family that suddenly she would no longer be part of.
Offering your genuine sympathy for the workers loss and expressing your commitment to support them through the grief period will help. However you treat one worker should be replicated for all that have experienced such a tough loss so make sure you are consistent in your actions and offers of support. If you offer one member of staff paid leave you will be setting a precedent and would have to do that in future which may not be financially viable if you have a large workforce. You may feel able to offer emergency annual or unpaid leave for the individual to take time off whilst they have time to grieve and attend the funeral.
It is the little things that can make an impact and show you care. By demonstrating that you are committed to helping them through this hard time will make a huge difference and which is unlikely to be forgotten in future.