The death of a family member can be one of the most significant and difficult moments of a person’s life. Unfortunately, the finality of death assures that there will be no second chances regarding your opportunity to pay your respects, or do what you feel is necessary to honour a person’s passing.

Aged care facilities on the other-hand actually have a working relationship with death, and while the death of a resident is obviously significant, people dying can often be commonplace within facilities due to the age and health problems of residents.

Residential facilities do their best to accommodate the needs of a deceased residents family, but the constraints of an environment with people who require constant care, can often mean that employees have very little time to notify and make arrangements regarding a death.

Notifying a family of a death, can be one of the most difficult processes that aged care employees deal with.

The majority of good facilities designate a point of contact for this call, or calls of significance relating to a resident, upon their admission into the facility.

Although there may be multiple contact numbers of family members pertaining to a resident, the majority of facilities instruct employees to only inform the predetermined first contact of that resident.

This person is then expected to inform other family members of significant news.

Unfortunately, there have been instances where the designated family member was notified of the death of a resident, but other members of the family failed to receive the information and have missed their chance to view the body and say their goodbyes

How Do Problems Arise?

Families can have complex interrelationships and in some cases there are disputes between family members that can result in animosity and a refusal to communicate with one another.

Simmering tensions between these family members can also be heightened by the stress of having a relative whose health is in decline.

These circumstances can result in confusion, leading to the information not being spread throughout the family, or in some rare instances this vital information can actually be withheld out of spite.

Breakdown in communication is one of the root causes of family going unnotified of the death of a loved one.

While employees of aged care facilities may sense that there is tensions between a residents family members, a facility will only contact multiple people with the news of a deceased relative if they have been specifically asked to do so.

The onus is on the families with a loved one in residential care to know who the designated point of contact is, and make arrangements with the facility if they feel that their relationship with the point of contact is not strong enough to ensure that information will be forthcoming.

Aged care employees can’t be expected to know the inner workings of every residents family relationships, and it is reasonable to assume that the point of contact will pass this news on, if it has not been specified to do otherwise.

But employees should be mindful to reiterate the importance of passing on the information of their loved ones death to other family members, when they make the call to the designated point of contact for that family.

Whether the deceased is resident of your facility or a member of your family, it’s vital that decisions regarding the first contact are put in place early and that communication between parties is made in the case of any changes.

The last thing that anyone should want, is for a simple miscommunication to deny someone from saying their final goodbyes to someone that they care about.

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