Dealing with death

  1. I work as a GNA in a nursing home and yesterday while I was working one of the residents passed away. She wasn't my patient that day but I would walk passed her room a lot and you could just see she was close to passing away. I've never seen someone close to death so to see someone breathing the way she was with her eyes wide was really hard for me. I actually had to enter the room because I was passing out dinner trays and I was giving one to her roommate. She was still alive when I walked in there and about 20 minutes later another GNA told me she had passed away. I'm really beating myself up over this because she was alone this entire time. I don't think anyone should be alone during a time like this and I did think earlier in my shift to go in there and be with her but I didn't because I had other patients to tend to and you just don't know how much time they actually have left. I've heard of patients passing away while I've been at work but this is the first time I've really seen someone nearing death. I know I shouldn't beat myself up over this but it's hard. I would love to hear how other deal with death because I know working at a nursing home I'm going to encounter this again.
    •  
  2. 3 Comments

  3. by   Davey Do
    Quote from mcbn2u
    I'm really beating myself up over this because she was alone this entire time. I don't think anyone should be alone during a time like this and I did think earlier in my shift to go in there and be with her but I didn't because I had other patients to tend to and you just don't know how much time they actually have left. I've heard of patients passing away while I've been at work but this is the first time I've really seen someone nearing death. I know I shouldn't beat myself up over this but it's hard. I would love to hear how other deal with death because I know working at a nursing home I'm going to encounter this again.
    You not wanting someone to be alone, or in any discomfort, is very empathetic of you, mcbn2u. We can only be in control of so much and it sounds like you were doing your job in providing care to those residents under your charge. You were doing your job.

    The first death I dealt with professionally was as an EMT a drowning victim who was 24 years old- two years older than me at the time. I guess it bothered me some, probably because I could identify with the individual. Identifying with the individual can elicit feelings of sympathy which can interfere with our emotions and ability to provide adequate care.

    Beating yourself up could be seen as an unnecessary expenditure of emotional energy which does no good for anyone.

    We all deal with death differently in order to continue our work as caregivers. For some reason, death never has bothered me deeply, and I've dealt with it as an EMT and in many areas of nursing including ER, OR, LTC, Home Health, Gero Psych, and even Chemical Dependency treatment.

    I've always tried to do the best job I could, and that's probably what has buoyed me through. Heck, once as a Scrub Nurse, we lost a Patient during a routine pacemaker change. There the Patient was, on the OR table with a Surgeon, Anesthesiologist, and Representative from the new pacemaker company, and the Patient coded! We did everything we could, but the Patient was gone!

    My personal belief that, when it's your time to go- you're gone, has seemed to help me.

    Again, we can only be in control of so much and just do the best job we can.

    The very best to you mcbn2u!
  4. by   Castiela
    I remember my first patient who passed was a resident who I had worked with for 10 months. I had checked on him, went downstairs for a moment and came back 5 mins and he had passed. I had a really hard time with his death, and even harder was that I had no time to process what had just happened and had no clue how to deal with a death. Does your work offer counselling or debriefing after an event like that? It might be something to look in to.

    Now, (many patient deaths later), After a patient I've cared for, or who I've connected with passes, I tend to like to spend a moment with in silence acknowledge their passing and honouring the person they were. I try to be there for a patient in this time, but it isn't always possible. I find this is my way I can pay respects to them.
  5. by   cardiacfreak
    Don't beat yourself up. I agree with you people shouldn't die alone, but they have and will continue to, that being said, it is okay to take a second or two and hold their hand and tell them it is okay to go.

    My grandfather died alone. He was at a nursing home and the aide was walking by his room and noticed him holding his arm up, she also heard him say, "I'm coming Katie." Katie was my grandmother. The aide took a few steps past the room when she realized my grandfather hadn't spoken in months. She walked back to his room and he was gone. I like to believe that he wasn't alone, but that my grandmother was there with him guiding him home.

close