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Death and Dying; A Guide for Staff Serving Adults with Mental Retardation.

Death and Dying: A Guide for Staff Serving Adults with Mental Retardation

The individual who is dying or experiencing the loss of a friend may need counselling to deal with death and loss. These guidelines are oriented to individuals with mental retardation and to staff working with these individuals. Some of these guidelines are proposed for the people serving as grief counsellors and some are addressed to all staff.

The reason for this division is that a resolution of the grieving process is effectively facilitated when all staff are generally supportive, while grief counselling per se is consistently addressed by one clearly identified person. This and other aspects of any grief counselling plan should, of course, be determined on a client-specific basis by the interdisciplinary team.

GRIEF COUNSELLOR Guidelines: . Allow the client who is dying or grieving to express as much grief as she is feeling and willing to share. . Encourage patience: Grieving takes time--months, weeks, often years. . Assist the client in "fact-finding" about dying or loss of a loved one. The client may want to know about circumstances or expectations of death (such as, will there be pain, will she be alone, or what about a funeral.) Contact chaplains or local clergy to co-counsel regarding spiritual needs and other questions. . Be patient with the sometimes erratic progress an individual may make in dealing with death or loss. Clients may experience confusion, forgetfulness, or denial of death or loss. Respect such defensiveness as indicative of the client's possible feelings of being overwhelmed by the weight of her grief or awareness of death. . Make contact with the dying or grieving client on a consistent basis (at least a few times a week). . Let the client express her emotions. . Do not fabricate comforting answers to the questions of a client who is grieving or dying. If you do not know answers to the questions, assist the client in obtaining the information. . Do not oversimplify your understanding of the stages of the grieving process. Clients, like everyone else, do not typically progress straight through the five stages of the grieving process. As clients progress from one stage to another they may appear temporarily to regress to a previous stage of grieving as they are in fact adjusting to bearing the weight of their grief. Do not attempt to "push" the client toward more advanced stages of the grieving process. . Tailor all interaction with clients to their level of understanding and communicative ability.

ALL STAFF Guidelines: . Let genuine concern show. . Do not be afraid to set limitations on time, place and duration of communication with the client who is dying or grieving. . Be aware that one client's grieving or death may remind other clients of their own losses and possibly unresolved grieving processes. . Advise clients honestly about how you are handling the loss. . Assist the client in learning to cope with the loss or dying. . Reach out to the client despite your own sense of helplessness. . Do not avoid clients because their pain makes you feel uncomfortable. . Let the individual feel her own emotions, not yours. . Do not change the subject when dying or loss is mentioned. . Be careful of the following phrases because of what they imply? "went to the hospital and died," "died in his sleep," "got sick and died." This will help present the client from believing there is a causal relationship between hospitals and death, sleep and death, etc. . Do not avoid mentioning your religious beliefs if they are ways of coping with death or loss. . In a work setting, communication should take place only at appropriate times. . Realize that sometimes a client who is dying may single out one staff person to confide feelings, worries and concerns.
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Title Annotation:excerpt
Author:Barbera, Thomas; Pitch, Richard; Howell, Mary
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:May 1, 1989
Words:618
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