Background Care after death includes supporting the bereaved. Evidence suggests that opportunity to view the deceased person is helpful to grieving families. During the COVID-19 pandemic, imposed restrictions to family presence challenged viewing arrangements. Some funeral firms also had essential health and safety policies in place which restricted visiting in a Chapel of Rest.
Methods To help meet the needs of grieving families whose relative died in an acute hospital setting, bereavement, chaplaincy and mortuary teams, together with essential administrative, portering and housekeeping staff implemented a service of COVID-secure supported viewing. Viewing the deceased person was facilitated in accordance with the family preference to be accompanied by the hospital bereavement nurse or by a male or female member of the hospital chaplaincy team of a specific faith, and included the option of prayer with or without family presence. Each family was offered a prayer booklet which was personalised with the name of the deceased. This was presented at the end of the viewing or sent by post.
Results In the period 14th April to 31st July 2020, 560 families were offered the service, and the uptake was 404 (72%). Of the 404 families:
Just over half (51%, n=205) required accompanied viewings, of which:
128 (62.4%) requested/received prayer/faith–based support.
77 (37.6%) requested/received bereavement nurse support only.
The majority (81%, n=327) opted for chaplaincy team involvement. This comprised:
128 (39.1%) viewings with prayer.
199 (60.9%) prayers without the family present.
A total of 840 personalised prayer booklets were produced. Several families requested and received multiple copies.
Conclusion Our supported viewing service serves as an example of the extraordinary caring creativity in the wake of COVID-19. It has been a real privilege to create something very precious and meaningful at such a challenging time in peoples’ lives.
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