May 08 2020
Written By
Barbara Karnes, RN
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How To Help Families Care For Their Dying Loved One During Social Distancing

How To Help Families Care For Their Dying Loved One During Social Distancing


barbara - May 14 2020

Hi Julie, WOW! I had not heard hospices were letting social workers go. Social workers are a valuable, and I agree, under used, component of end of life care. Lots of emphasis on nurse’s role when actually dying is not a medical event. It is a social, communal event hence the important role of social worker. I suggest social workers call weekly and continue with a bereavement relationship of frequent calls. Thank you for reaching out to me. Blessings to you in the work you are doing. Barbara

Julie R - May 14 2020

Hi Barbara,

Instead of volunteers, I would encourage the hospice social worker. Many of us are being let go as we are not making in person visits.

We need a strong voice for us as we are professionals and are being underutilized and losing our jobs!

barbara - May 08 2020

Hi Nancy, Great question about families not wanting to talk about dying. I’ve always considered it my job to educate and prepare the family for the approaching death of their loved one (or not loved one). That is why I am there, so here is how I have dealt with them——“ I know you are uncomfortable talking about mom’s approaching death. The reason I am here is to guide and support you and your family during this time of your mom’s dying. Let’s have a conversation. You tell me why you don’t want me to talk about this and then I’ll tell you why I think you need to hear what I have to tell you". When it is my turn I talk about opportunities to care, to show love, to be prepared by acknowledging that mom’s death will happen. I give them Gone From My Sight and The Eleventh Hour as reading assignment. “Do you see mom anywhere in Gone From My Sight? Every time I visit I am not going to talk about dying but I am going to be looking to support you, guide you and provide care for your mom. I don’t lie. You can trust me to have you and your mom’s best interest always in the for front”.
Our job as an end of life specialist is to address the elephant in the room, to be direct and honest in the gentlest way possible. We are not doing our job, and doing a great disservice to the family if we don’t talk about mom’s approaching death, educate and at least try to prepare the family. What’s the worst thing that can happen—the family can discontinue hospice services, try to find another hospice that will let them play their denial game BUT you, as a hospice professional, will have your integrity, you will know that you tried to do your job.

Nancy Rieber - May 08 2020

I have worked as a hospice RN for the past 7 years. I have experienced some family members not wanting to discuss the dying process. They have become angry when it is brought up. How should the nurse proceed in that environment?

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