Grappling with grief

Category: Personal, medical and clinical care

BlueCross Community & Residential Services, Vic.
BlueCross Ashby, Lower Templestowe, Vic

The Grappling with Grief program was developed to provide a formalised and individualised approach to assisting each new resident to adjust to the sense of loss (grief) associated with such a significant life change.

The Administration Coordinator (fully qualified in Pastoral Care) identified multiple layers of loss and unrecognised grief being experienced by residents entering and residing in aged care. She also observed that care staff often did not have the expertise nor the time needed to adequately respond to this need.

The prime focus of this model is the specific targeting of grief and loss. Residents are encouraged to express their feelings and emotions during individualised sessions of uninterrupted lengths of time to reflect and grieve their losses and come to a place of peace and acceptance. This reflective listening provides the first step towards healing and a renewing hope that life is still worth living. Grappling with Grief is now an integral part of the home’s culture and
the benefits (level of grief, level of depression and resident engagement) are regularly monitored and demonstrate the efficacy of the overall program.

The Pastoral Care Coordinator has developed a formal ‘Admission Support Program’ including a Grappling with Grief Brochure which is included in the Resident’s Admission Pack. This provides information to the resident and family about the emotional support provided from entry date. The Pastoral Care Coordinator meets every new resident (and family) within one week following entry. They continue to have contact once-a-week for a minimum six week period to discuss issues such as how they are settling in, any concerns, acknowledging feelings of grief of leaving their previous home and loved ones, fitting into life at the residence, establishing new friends, maintaining outside contacts and their general well-being. After the six-week period, the Pastoral Care Coordinator is available to the resident and/or family anytime if they feel they need somebody to talk to.

The aim is to provide counselling, comfort and support to residents entering the aged care home to help them adjust to their losses (home, spouse, independence) and help them manage the accompanying grief.

The home conducts an annual survey to assess sense of grief on entry and repeat the survey once the resident has completed the six-week Grappling with Grief Program. Analysis of the data provides a clear picture that the interventions undertaken by the facility have provided resoundingly positive outcomes for residents.

For more information on the program, contact Verity Leith, email: or phone: (03) 9828 1200.