Farmborough - UnitingCare NSW.ACT - A dignified farewell and memorial

Category: Consumer Directed Care and Re-ablement

Farmborough – A dignified farewell and memorial
Farmborough - UnitingCare NSW.ACT

Residents, family friends, volunteers and staff were concerned that when people died, there were no processes in place to advise of their passing, let alone farewell their friend or commemorate their lives.

Staff were advised not to reveal information of the passing of a resident within their community, excuses were made, treating other residents as children who needed protection, presuming they were unable to cope with the bad news. Everyone had to wait until the word had passed around. This caused considerable distress to many residents leading to tears, confusion and depression.

And so began a transformation.

Now, not only is the deceased taken out the front door, but other residents are notified beforehand and invited to say their ‘goodbyes’ by joining a guard of honour along with staff and other family members; background music is played; the body cloaked with a ceremonial quilt; and a photographic memorial placed in the foyer to advise those not present at the time.

Our objective became to provide a dignified farewell, celebrate lives, to allow people to ‘leave by the front door the same way they arrived’ and to have effective communication enabling all to grieve and have closure. 

Residents, families, staff, volunteers and the pastoral care team were all involved at different junctures during the evolution of this project to bring us to where we are today.  It was a very organic process over time as views changed and as more people felt comfortable to express opinions for change.

Feedback has all been positive. Residents have appreciated being advised and provided with the support network to deal with the passing of one of their community members. This assists them in grieving for people they have had regular contact with on a daily basis.

The Guard of Honour and Memorial Table provide forums for closure, expressions of grief, reflection and the beginning of the healing process. The table itself has proved to be a meeting place where people will congregate to remember good times shared.  Some have expressed comfort at knowing how they might one day be farewelled when their time comes.

It is emotional and truly heart-warming to see wheelchair bound residents determined to stand for the Guard of Honour as a sign of respect as one of their community members leave their home. For staff and volunteers, the emotional contentment of saying goodbye and attaining closure is quite significant.

For more information on the program, contact: Jill Harvey, email: or phone: (02) 4223 7935.