Honoring Loss, Respecting a Life: End-of-Life Rituals in Nursing Homes

By Bern-Klug, Mercedes | Aging Today, November/December 2011 | Go to article overview

Honoring Loss, Respecting a Life: End-of-Life Rituals in Nursing Homes


Bern-Klug, Mercedes, Aging Today


The following is excerpted and adapted from Mercedes Bern-Klug's article, "Rituals in Nursing Homes," which appears in the Fall 2011 issue of Generations.

Rituals punctuate life. This truth remains even during the last chapter of life, and even when life is lived within a nursing home. The continuation of daily rituals can help a nursing home resident retain a sense of self. When staff and family members help to facilitate these rituals, they honor the dignity of each nursing home resident.

Life transition rituals mark the major milestones of life, such as birth, coming of age, life partnering, parenthood, retirement and death. A ritual helps to normalize the life transition and guide the people who are most affected by it.

Ritual is a way to help a person transition from the in-between phase to the new circumstance. But people don't always welcome new circumstances, especially if these are connected with reduced social status and increased social stigma, which is often the case when a person enters a nursing home after the progression of a chronic illness or the loss of a support system.

Most nursing home residents experience multiple losses. Advanced old age can be accompanied by the loss of vital roles and relationships. As most nursing home residents advance in years and have chronic illness, the experience of loss is common, and can include being a witness to the deaths of fellow residents. Despite the avalanche of losses-or perhaps because of them-the nursing home setting is ripe for rituals that restore a sense of meaning and connection. Rituals can help remind us that while it is normal to die in advanced old age, the death of one member of a community is a loss for all in that community.

Some nursing homes, through their activities or social services departments, have developed rituals related to residents' deaths. These rituals are im- portant to the culture of the nursing home. In some cases, a short, informal gathering is held at the bedside of the deceased with staff, family and residents who were close to that person in attendance. In other nursing homes, families are welcome to use the library or chapel for a service.

In an article that I co-authored with colleague Peggy Sharr, "Final Discharge Planning: Rituals Related to the Death of a Nursing Home Resident" (from Transforming Palliative Care in Nursing Homes: The Social Work Role; New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), we note how different nursing homes mark the deaths of their residents. Social worker Lynn Oliver works in a nursing home where a small, anonymously penned poem called "The Little Ship" is posted on a deceased resident's door and remains there until after the person's funeral. This same nursing home also plays a hymn over the intercom system upon a resident's death. Oliver says, "I post 'A Little Ship' with the resident's name by the time clock for staff. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Honoring Loss, Respecting a Life: End-of-Life Rituals in Nursing Homes
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.