The atmosphere of the supervisors’ meeting was very different today. Where Debra was used to handling interdepartmental bickering and various interpersonal conflicts, this meeting seemed to center around the recent passing of Hazel.
“I can’t get Perdita to even go into the unit,” Mary Ellen explained. Mary Ellen was the Head Housekeeper, and she tried to explain to Debra how many of her staff members were reluctant to work in Charlie’s unit. “A lot of my staff are young, or newcomers. This was the first time anyone has died in the Manor, and they feel uncomfortable cleaning the bedroom.”
Eleanor, the Recreation Coordinator just scoffed. “This is a seniors’ community. Unfortunately, resident deaths are something staff just have to deal with. It’s sad for sure, but it comes with the job. If our housekeepers can’t handle it, they might want to look into working in a hotel or do commercial cleaning.”
Victor, the Head Cook, just shook his head. “Eleanor, that’s not very helpful. A lot of our Manor staff are new, and a lot don’t have the experience or training to deal with this sort of thing. We are a relatively new building. I know this is my first time working in a seniors community, and the loss of Hazel is really upsetting. I really liked her. She always came down for tea early in the morning, and we’d sit and chat when I had the chance.” Victor slumped a little in his seat as he entertained those memories. “Actually,” Victor continued, “the dining room team is having a really rough time as of late. Charlie just hasn’t been himself and breaks down at mealtimes when he is eating by himself. A lot of the other residents are really upset as well. My staff is doing their absolute best to console everyone and provide support, but they aren’t counsellors. Residents are depressed, they are talking about their own impending deaths. It’s just really unpleasant in the dining room these days, and I’m not sure what to do.”
Debra nodded. She understood how hard it was, especially for new team members and supervisors. While those like Eleanor and herself had decades of combined experience in the industry, not everyone else did. And Debra had to admit that even with all her experience working with seniors, certain losses were big ones for people. She hated to admit it, but there were certain residents that, over time, became “favourites.” Hazel was definitely in that category for her. For whatever reason, Hazel was very special to her.
Eleanor was sipping on her coffee, rolling her eyes a bit at Mary Ellen and Victor who were still describing the emotions of their staff. “Everyone will have different ways of dealing with this, in their own way.” Debra explained. What I can do is look into getting a Grief Counsellor in, and we can make this service available to all our departments. Secondly, please advise your team members to use our Employee Assistance Program, as that is what this service is there for. Finally, it is very difficult for our front line workers who are trying to provide support to our residents’ emotional needs and remain focused on their day to day tasks, especially if they are grieving as well.” Debra’s voice cracked a bit. She was doing her best to not show emotion in front of her supervisors. She had to hold it together and be strong. “I think we should all do our best to support one another right now,” Debra added.
As the meeting ended, everyone collected their binders and notes and made their way to the door. Debra and Victor were the last to leave. “Do you need a hug?” Victor offered to Debra. Debra thought she had done her best to hide things, but obviously couldn’t fool Victor. She just nodded with tears running down her cheeks. “It’s ok to cry,” Victor said. And they stood in the room for a little while, feeling a little more human and a little bit better.
**************************************************************************************** Grief after a resident dies is a very common, and it doesn’t affect just family and friends. Staff members grow very attached to the people they serve, and may struggle with loss. Others may feel uncomfortable around death, especially if they have never dealt with it before.
What are your thoughts on today’s issue? Do you have any advice for Debra and her team?