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When caregivers grieve, who cares for them?
Kit Chan recalls one night when she found herself awake at 2 a.m. thinking about a resident at St. Vincent’s: Langara who had recently passed away.
Chan, a registered dietitian at the residential care facility, had enjoyed the man’s friendly visits to her office every day. When he died unexpectedly, it left her wondering: Did she do enough for him? Did she have a chance to say goodbye?
This is just one of many times when the emotional toll of a resident’s death followed her outside the workplace. And she’s far from alone in experiencing this type of stress. In 2015, Chan was having coffee with her colleagues, physiotherapist Anne Leclerc and occupational therapist Karen Pott, and they all expressed feeling physically and emotionally drained due to what seemed like a tidal wave of resident deaths and a high number of residents with complex needs.
Inspired to delve deeper into the issue, Chan, Leclerc and Pott assembled a research team and embarked on a two-part study (the first funded by the Providence Health Care Practice-Based Research Challenge; the second by the Research Services at WorkSafe BC). They wanted to understand how interdisciplinary residential care team members are affected by the death of residents they are caring for. They also sought to identify strategies – such as focusing on self-care, increasing comfort with end-of-life conversation, and promoting the need for palliative care resources – to help staff better cope with death. A final report of the Phase 2 study is expected later this fall.