How One Home Health Provider Handles Caregiver Grief

The loss of a patient in their end-stage of life is not only tough on friends and family of the person—it can also be hard on a caregiver. As such, dealing with grief is an issue that some home health agencies are making a priority for their caregivers.

In an industry marked by high turnover, home health agencies that have protocols in place and provider access to grief resources for caregivers are likely to see the benefits, according to Jennifer Benoit, RN, assistant clinical director at Somerville, Massachusetts-based home health provider Nizhoni Health.

Once a patient is in the end-stage of their life, home health providers should work closely with the patient and their family as well as the caregivers, Benoit told Home Health Care News.

“Once we [Nizhoni] realize a patient is in the end-stage of life we work closely with the patient and their family and/or caregivers, educating them on what to expect during this time,” Benoit said. “We don’t offer a formal program, but coordinate closely with case workers and the patient’s care team to ensure everyone involved has ways to cope and grieve.”

Using Outside Sources

Though it’s never easy to lose someone, death can be fairly commonplace in home health settings when working with older adults or people with chronic conditions.

While Nizhoni does not provide an internal program for caregivers, it does ensure that there are ways for their caregivers to connect with professionals and groups that deal specifically with grief counseling.

“There are many wonderful local resources for our teams to connect with, and while the care we provide our patients is exemplary, the organizations and groups we refer patients, caregivers and families to are designed specifically to help with grief,” Benoit explained. “These types of organizations include hospice agencies, grief counselors in the community and various other community support groups.”

In the future, Nizhoni says the company is open to developing new programs and expanding services to further help patients and those caring for the patients. For now, the system in place is working, explained Benoit.

“The system we have in place works well to ensure that none of our patients, their family members and/or caregivers—including those who have spent time with the patient in a group home, community-based housing or assisted living facility—feel alone,” she said. “We work closely with community organizations and we refer patients directly to them when they are in need.”

What Other Agencies Can Do

There’s no doubt that showing caregivers compassion when dealing with the loss of a patient is vital, but it can also help with lowering turnover. If caregivers feel supported and that their employer cares about their mental health.

For agencies looking to develop protocols to help caregivers deal with grief, they can start with options like education training programs or offering a set of resources for staff to utilize, said Benoit.

“Occasionally, an employee may not feel comfortable looking to their work for an outlet to express their grief, but would appreciate the direction toward outside resources they can utilize, if they wish,” she explained.

Written by Alana Stramowski