Preparing for and Navigating Loss in Long-Term Care: Understanding the Steps Involved

Mallory J Greene
Mallory J Greene
June 12th 2024 - 4 minute read
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Long-term care facilities often become like a second home for residents and their loved ones. Knowing what to expect can alleviate some of the confusion and stress surrounding the end-of-life process in this setting.

Long-term care facilities often become like a second home for residents and their loved ones. When a resident's health declines, the facility staff plays an integral role in supporting both the resident and their family. Knowing what to expect can alleviate some of the confusion and stress surrounding the end-of-life process in this setting.

Before the Passing: Establishing Communication & Plans

  • Discussions with LTC Team: Maintain open communication with the care team about your loved one's health status and prognosis. Address questions regarding end-of-life care, pain management, and the resident's wishes.
  • Advance Directives: If your loved one has an Advance Care Plan, ensure the facility has a copy on file. This document outlines their preferences for medical treatments and resuscitation measures.
  • Palliative and Hospice Care: Many LTC facilities have in-house palliative care or partner with hospice providers.Discuss these options if your loved one's condition warrants a focus on comfort and quality of life during their final days.
  • Pre-Arrangements: If your loved one pre-planned their funeral, ensure the facility is aware and has contact details for the chosen funeral home.

When the Time of Passing Arrives

  • Notification: LTC staff will contact the designated family member or healthcare decision-maker. They will also pronounce the death, usually a doctor or registered nurse.
  • Support and Time: Staff understand this is a sensitive time and will likely offer you space and support. Take the time to be with your loved one and say your goodbyes.
  • Understanding Facility Procedures: Inquire about the facility's procedures regarding the timeframe for the funeral home to collect the deceased, and the process for retrieving personal belongings.

Arrangements and Administrative Steps

  • Funeral Home: If a funeral home was part of pre-arrangements, they'll likely be contacted by the facility.Otherwise, choose a funeral home and notify the LTC facility of your selection.
  • Death Certificate and Registration: The facility generally works with either the doctor or selected funeral home to complete the Medical Certificate of Death and register it with the appropriate government agencies.
  • Resident's Belongings: Coordinate with LTC staff to gather your loved one's belongings and handle any outstanding matters related to their room.
  • Important Contacts: The facility might assist in notifying relevant parties like the Social Security Administration (if applicable).

Additional Considerations & Resources

  • Support from LTC Staff: Don't hesitate to lean on nurses and social workers at the facility. Many have experience supporting grieving families and can offer resources or referrals.
  • Understanding Your Rights: Research Resident Rights specific to your state or province. These outline the rights of LTC residents relating to their care, privacy, and how their belongings are handled.
  • Benefits and Financial Matters: Investigate any survivor benefits you may be eligible for, outstanding bills from the LTC facility, and how to access the deceased's remaining funds.
  • Estate Matters: Consult an estate lawyer if there are complex matters to handle regarding a will, probate, or assets.
  • Grief Resources Don't be afraid to seek additional grief support through individual counseling, support groups, or online resources.

Prioritizing Your Well-Being

Losing a loved one is never easy, regardless of the setting. Remember:

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Grief is deeply personal. Allow yourself time to process the emotions and to rest.
  • Celebrate Their Memory: Share stories and cherished memories with your family and the LTC staff who cared for your loved one.
  • Lean on Your Support System: Don't hesitate to ask for emotional and practical help from friends, family, or a spiritual community. Take gentle care of your own needs both now and in the months to come.

Final Thought: Saying Goodbye in Familiar Surroundings

While filled with sadness, the passing of a loved one in a long-term care facility often occurs within an environment that has become familiar both to the resident and their family. Remember the compassion and care offered by the staff, and reach out for support during this difficult transition.