Background Within our day unit, patients develop friendships with one another and telling them about the death of a former patient can be difficult and distressing. Up until recently, we typically told patients about the loss of a former patient on an individual basis. However, we were concerned about the way this was delivered and the impact this had on the individual and the group as a whole.
Aim Breaking bad news to patients is difficult for healthcare professionals. As part of my reflections and learning from studying Loss and Grief (University module) at the hospice I wanted to explore how we might improve this.
Method Within the day unit we identified a need to support patients throughout this time. I drew inspiration from Worden’s Tasks of Mourning (1982) along with an awareness of the social context of loss and grief. I gathered ideas about how we might enhance practice and have been piloting a new approach to delivering bad news to patients.
Results This new approach focuses on a celebration of life, bringing all patients together in a safe environment where they are told about the loss. An ‘I remember’ discussion (led by day unit staff with support from volunteers, spiritual and social care teams) is held, which is a positive interaction to share memories through reminiscence. Throughout suggestions are made about how to celebrate the memory of the deceased, which includes music, singing and lighting candles.
Conclusion Initial results suggest that patients are not left low in mood. In fact, their memories bring positive emotions such as laughter. We believe that by encouraging patients to communicate after loss will enable them to speak more freely about their own diagnosis and wishes.
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