A while back, Claire Callender talked about what it’s like, as an undertaker, to ‘remove’ (industry term) a dead body from a care home. It’s something I talked about a lot yesterday with a friend who has an especially beautiful mind. It’s something he frets about, often talks about, something we both mean to do some research into.
The very idea that death in a care home should be so widely regarded as a catastrophe is bonkers. Obviously. The fact that residents are subject to a protective lockdown so that the corpse-handlers can get on with their furtive work is shameful. And shaming. Of the undertakers, too—what does all this hole-and-corner stuff say about them? Jayzus, if a retirement community can’t get its head around something as routine as its membership expiring on a regular and perfectly natural basis, who can?
Why, my friend likes to ask, can the staff not tell everyone what’s happened so that those who want can pop in and say goodbye and/or line up at the front door and applaud as their friend is borne away? Can death not be integrated into the life of a care home, not quarantined? We’re talking natural causes here, not Ebola.
Cannot the dead person drop into the care home for half an hour or so on the way to her funeral so that those too infirm to make it to the crem can have a farewell do for her?
There must be care homes that make a much better fist of this than most—who have healthy rituals to deal with the event. I’ve no idea if any care staff read this blog, or hospice workers. I do know that a number of funeral directors do.
Because what my friend and I would like to know is: Do you know of anywhere that handles the death of a resident in an emotionally healthy way? What do they do? How do they do it?
Please, if you have a moment, type your thoughts and stories into the comment box below. We’d be very grateful.