When you lose someone who has lived as part of your family for many years, grief is to be expected. At Echoing Hills, it really isn’t any different. Some of our homes are set-up to be a family of six and some are larger, but no matter the size they are home to the people we serve.
Roger passed away just a week ago. Roger had lived at Echoing Hills for many, many years. Never afraid to let you know what he needed, he would always make a certain sound and start spelling words on his communication board.
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to take Roger to Las Vegas for a vacation. The main reason we were going was to make one of his life dreams come true…to see Reba in concert. These two photos of Roger capture his emotions before Reba came out and then after she started her concert. He was so happy he was crying, and I thought to myself…THIS IS WHY I DO WHAT I DO! – Jackie Householder – Program Director.
For Jackie, who interacted with Roger every day, this loss has not been easy. For those who shared the same home with Roger, the loss was heavy on their minds. Harry spoke through tears and a broken voice when he said to me that Roger went to sleep and just never woke up. I told Harry that Roger woke up in the arms of Jesus. Harry’s smile spread across his face and he said, “yes he did.” Then Harry asked me if I was afraid to die…think about that. Harry could ask me this question, but for others at Echoing Hills that cannot communicate, they may not be able to say, I am scared, I am afraid. That’s why caregivers are so important. They can communicate through eye contact, and soothe and calm the person through gently holding a hand and speaking words of comfort.
What is it like to be a caregiver at the homes of Echoing Hills? Even though our direct care team members are there just eight hours a day…they create deep bonds. How do you grieve and recover when you lose someone you have cared for each day over a span of years?
An article I read released by NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4300283/ puts it into perspective:
Patient death is common in long-term care. Yet, little attention is paid to how direct care staff members, who provide the bulk of daily long-term care, experience patient death and to what extent they are prepared for this experience.
Grief symptoms like those experienced by family caregivers are common among direct care workers following the individuals’ death. Increasing preparedness for this experience via better training and support is likely to improve the occupational experience of direct care workers, and ultimately allow them to provide better palliative care in nursing homes and home care.
Echoing Hills has an on-staff Chaplain that is available to our staff, the individuals we serve, our board members and leadership team…not to mention the campers that visit every summer at Camp Echoing Hills.
We know it is important to be able to express emotions and feelings, especially during a very difficult time as losing someone close. That is why we have made great strides in helping team members cope with grief by providing spiritual and emotional support.
A plan in place is the best answer, grieving is a process, a journey…lean on those around you for support and know that this earthly journey is not the end.