Hospice and Senior care workers mourn too…
I was recently visiting one of our funeral home locations when the firm received a death call. There was quite a bit of activity already going on, so I volunteered to assist on the home removal. The opportunity to participate in what I consider one of the most delicate actions taken by our profession, is actually a privilege.
The transfer and removal of a person that dies at home is quite an interesting part of the funeral profession. When developing our funeral home, I spent time with hospice care workers and owners inquiring about what they do, how they do it, and how funeral homes are perceived from their point of view. I asked several times “what don’t you like about funeral directors?” The resounding first answer was the way many funeral homes conduct home removals. “Funeral homes take too long to respond…from the time we call, many times to an answering service, then a funeral director finally calls back, and waiting for the people to get there often takes a long time.” The problem they shared, was that the family now had a deceased loved one in their midst…and families are often worn out and uncomfortable waiting. “When the funeral home people finally show up, it’s often really impersonal.” Meaning, the transfer staff/people generally were there just to get the job done and leave some information for the family to read until contacted by the funeral home.
So, when we developed the Family Choice brand and it’s operating platform of TouchPoints, transfer/home, home removal was a big deal. Such a big deal, that there are 59 specific steps of how to perform this process. I happened to be with our Executive VP of Operations, which basically meant that I was certain the process should be flawless.
Upon arrival we were met by the hospice nurse, one that apparently was not familiar with us, nor us with her. She met us outside prior to beginning our process at the removal vehicle. After introducing our selves, she stated “well, I haven’t worked with you and I guess you’re just like everyone else.” That’s when the pro (our VP) took over. He shared how we are different…not the old “we care more speech or we’ve been here since Sherman burnt down the South” rhetoric. And then, he asked her “how long did you serve this family and would you share with me your experience with them?”
She told us that the woman suffered from cancer and that she was on home hospice 4 months. The hospice nurse went on to share how sweet family is and how they cared for her at home. Additionally, and most important to me sharing this with you, she said “and I am going to miss her (the deceased), she was like family to me.” That’s when the pro, our VP reached in his pocket and took out a white Mourningcross Bereavement Pin and asked the hospice nurse if he could give it to her and pin it on her collar. Being a bit stunned, she allowed him to do so.
He shared with her that although her chosen profession is a job and that’s how she makes a living, she also develops relationships and mourns for the loss of her patients…because she is human. “So this pin is to remind you of your relationship with the deceased and to publicly show that you are grieving the loss. When people ask or notice this pin, share with them the story of your patient, or in this case, your friend.”
After wiping some tears away, the hospice nurse stayed with us to observe our process of caring for this family, and “the last time she leaves home.” Needless to say, we have a new friend that cares for others. Just remember, hospice and senior care workers mourn too…
As a family service counselor the daughter of my preneed client and I worked together closely when her mother began hospice care. She was so comfortable with my help she would call and come by for details which was common because I worked at a combo location. The morning of Mothers Day, I answered the phone and knew threw her nervous voice that her mother had passed away. She asked if I would please come to her home with the FD, and let her mother leave with me being there.
It was truly and honor that I had never experienced before. I learned a lot that day about taking a person from their home for the last time. I realized a great amount of responsibility was shifted to me as we drove away. I wanted to be sure that the confidence this family put in me would never be a disappointment.
Thank you so much for what you do…and “being there” when needed. Please let me know an address that I can send you a Mourningcross Bereavement Pin.
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Freaking *excellent* post, Jeff. As the kids say, “full of win.” Of all the compliments I’ve fielded, the vast majority can be split pretty evenly between the deceased’s appearance and the consideration shown by the removal staff.
And I *adore* the idea of the Bereavement Pin. I’ve long been of the opinion that one of the things the Victorians got most right was the universally-acknowledged mourning designations (even if they did get a wee bit carried away with the whole idea). I know there are a lot of times in my own life when I could really have used some sign that told people that I was particularly fragile and raw at the moment and would very much appreciate being handled a bit more gently than usual.
Maybe it’s better, though, that people have to ask. We don’t talk about death enough even when it’s the most significant influence on our lives and state of being at that particular moment, and that does us a lot of damage.
Thank you!!! I appreciate your reading the article and taking time to comment.~Jeff
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