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Death of a loved one can be devastating for most of us, but is particularly devastating for vulnerable people who may be left alone and isolated, and often suffer chronic illness. Relying on friends and family to help you cope may not be an option for many people because there’s no one else there for them. It’s a sad reality of life that every single one of us must deal with grief at some point, but how can we as healthcare professionals make contact and offer support to those who may not know we can help them?
What help is available?
There are numerous resources to help those who have suffered the death of someone close to them. People can contact local bereavement services through their GP, local hospice, the national Cruse helpline and bereavement counsellors. A bereavement counsellor can give time and space to talk about feelings, about the person who has died, relationships, family, work, fears and the future. People can have access to a bereavement counsellor at any time, even if the person who has been lost died a long time ago.
Different types of bereavement
There are different types of bereavement, such as being bereaved through suicide, bereaved through murder and, of course, there are children who have been bereaved. If someone has an incurable illness, they and their loved ones can prepare for bereavement. Practical things can help, such as discussing funeral arrangements together and making a will. End of life teams will be part of assisting with this process, but it is important that all staff are aware of how to treat people who have suffered or are preparing for bereavement, because this could be crucial to their overall welfare and health.
Five suggestions to help those suffering bereavement
We, of course, are in the caring profession and the CQC would expect us to evidence that we treat people with compassion, dignity and respect. Here are my five suggestions for helping those suffering bereavement:
- Provide information to help people understand the services available and make sure it is easy to understand.
- Make early contact with vulnerable patients who you know have suffered bereavement. Early intervention may prevent them from suffering illness.
- Respond to the recently bereaved's needs promptly, and treat them with kindness, compassion and respect.
- Promote independence and encourage them to do as much for themselves as they are able to; it might just keep them healthy and out of hospital.
- Provide regular training for staff so they are able to help and support bereaved patients and families.
Bereavement Support Organisations who may help you to help your patients can be found here.
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