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Should You Attend a Patient's Funeral?

Should You Attend a Patient's Funeral?

Marijke Durning | Scrubs Magazine

October 05, 2010

But what happens when the exceptional patient crosses our path—the one who makes an impact on us or an imprint on our soul even if he wasn’t there for very long? What about the patients for whom we cared over a longer period, such as in hospice or extended care? Many of these patients—and their family members—become dear to us and their death may affect us deeply.

Unless otherwise stated by the families or funeral homes, funerals are generally a public event. Whether held in a religious institution or a funeral home, the doors are usually open for anyone who would like to attend. This means if you feel you would benefit from attending the ceremony, the choice is yours.

Long-term care facilities across the country have begun to acknowledge that caregivers may benefit from attending the funerals of patients. In order to accommodate the staff, some facilities have begun offering space for the families to hold services in the facility itself. This allows not only the family and friends to mourn, but also fellow patients and any staff to attend. Other facilities hold annual or semiannual memorials to which the family members are invited—and, again, allow the staff members to participate.

The Family

Chances are if you have become attached to a patient and her family, the family knows this. It’s not unusual for strong bonds to form between the caregivers and the families. Many families report feeling touched when they spot a nurse or nursing assistant in the crowd, or when they see the name in the guestbook. It’s a good feeling to know that someone you love has touched people enough that they want to come to say good-bye.

Alternately, if a patient has been cared for in a long-term situation, such as in home care, some families express disappointment if a nurse they felt close to didn’t find a way to say good-bye.

Life is full of such richness and such sorrow. If attending a funeral can help alleviate some of the sadness, it could add to the richness by providing you with the memories that helped you.

What do you think about nurses attending patient funerals?

Next: Death by Natural Causes Explained >>

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