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How to Handle the Death of a Resident

By Heather Brown
September 16, 2016

Administrators and caregivers in assisted living facilities will lose a resident to death at some point. Whether expected or not, death is difficult to manage. Depending on the type of resident you care for, death might occur frequently. It is important to provide help to other residents as well as your staff in these difficult situations.

The Grieving Process

Grieving isn’t the same for everybody impacted by a loss. When a resident passes it is important to be there for other residents and staff members. Staff members are often overlooked as individuals who need help managing the loss of a resident.

Staff members show up daily to care for and provide a safe haven for residents. During their daily work activities, it is normal for them to build relationships, bonds, and friendships with residents and their families. It’s common and easy to think “it’s part of the job” but it is important to help staff members through the grieving process. Create a grievance plan to help guide them through and accept the loss of their residents.

  1. Notify staff. Notify staff members of a resident’s passing before they show up for work. This gives them time to cry and process emotions beforehand. It is important for staff members and caregivers to continue quality care for the other residents and assist them through their grief.  Waiting to tell them when they arrive at work can be detrimental to them and to the other residents.
  2. Be available. Listen to staff members who want to talk through their grieving. Let them know it is okay to voice their grievances to you. Sometimes they just need to hear it’s okay and normal to be sad in these moments.
  3. Hire a grief counselor. Hire a grief counselor or offer to send staff members to see a grief counselor. Since everybody responds to and manages the grieving process uniquely, this option may only be needed by a select group of individuals.
  4. Hold a memorial service. Hold a mini-memorial service for the residents and staff members. Invite the resident’s family to attend as well. Invite everybody to share memories, stories, and feelings with those in the room. Saying goodbye while celebrating the life of the one lost is therapeutic for those impacted.


The National Center for Assisted Living recently reported caregiver turnover is 29.8%. There are multiple factors that push caregivers to move out of their positions – poor management, feeling burnt-out, and unable to cope with death.  Creating a path and plan to help staff members and caregivers grieve the loss of resident helps increase your employee retention.

Assisted living facilities benefit with increased employee retention in multiple ways:

  • Decreased employee training expenses.
  • Increased resident retention.
  • Better quality of care to residents.

Help staff members along with the residents through the grieving process. Your efforts make them feel valuable and cared for which increases employee retention and decrease overall expenses.

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