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

By Barbera, Thomas; Pitch, Richard et al. | The Exceptional Parent, May-June 1989 | Go to article overview
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Death and Dying; A Guide for Staff Serving Adults with Mental Retardation


Barbera, Thomas, Pitch, Richard, Howell, Mary, The Exceptional Parent


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.

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