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A resident is dying and I feel sad.

Hi everyone,

Well as the title says, a resident in our ALF is dying and I feel incredibly sad about it all.

Now, I understand that as someone in the nursing field (well even a cna like me) we are going to deal with death at some point or other in our career. I've actually seen 2 residents actively dying before this, and a few others have died suddenly, but for some reason this one is especially hard for me to deal with. The other residents I felt like I wasn't too close to them and since this is assisted living, I felt like I didn't do much for them (little to no assistance residents).

Well, this is a sweet 90 something year old male resident who is a veteran and lost his eyesight, so he was mostly blind and needed a lot of help sometimes locating his things. He enjoyed science but since he can't read, he had audible books and I always helped him order more. I fixed little things for him that he couldn't see, like his razor, his hearing aids... he called me sweet names like "doll" "jewel" "sweet" and he made me feel so smart and like a hero when I would fix those things for him by calling me a genius, he even told me I was his favorite CNA. In the last couple of weeks I was there when he started having pain and I felt so bad, I wanted to help. He wasn't coming down for meals so I made sure I took his meals to his room. He started having trouble keeping his food down, and last week, another CNA and I helped him sit up in bed and fed him, but only took maybe 3 bites of his food and started throwing it up.

It made me feel so sad to see him like that, when not too long ago he was up and walking, eating, talking and listening to his science books. Now, he's getting worse, he doesn't remember anyone, is bed ridden, has stopped eating, sleeps a lot....well you know...

Just for some reason this is harder for me than it was with the other residents, I just feel like I made a difference at least for one day in his life and it's so hard to see him like that, slowly. I was talking to my boyfriend about this and started getting emotional and teared up.

Anyway, has anyone ever gone through something similar, where the death of a patient/resident was hard? How do you deal with it?

Thank you.

I'm sorry to hear about his condition. It's hard when you get attached with a resident. During my clinical rotation for my CNA class, I felt somewhat attached to this older man in the memory unit (Alzheimer's unit). I did not provide any direct patient care for him, just saying hi and giving him his food. I just felt something because every time I see him, he murmurs to himself and looks satisfied. He has moments of clarity but a lot of confusion.

When our clinical rotation was finished, I felt some sadness too. It felt like I was leaving him and the other residents behind. I was able to bounce back from it, but sometimes I wonder on how they are doing.

I find that talking about this to someone else you work with helps (someone else who knows the patient). I work in a hospital so I have dealt with a lot of death and dying, and the debriefing period afterwards helps me significantly. You are only human, it is normal for you to feel what you are feeling. But just remember that not all your patients are going to be around forever, and as a healthcare worker you are going to need a healthy way of dealing with death at your workplace.

Missingyou, CNA

Specializes in Long term care.

After doing this for 20 + years, I've lost many residents. It never gets easier to deal with. You're human and it hurts to lose someone you cared for!

I try to attend any funeral services for my residents. I write a message to a family (funeral homes often provide a guest book on their website) and I write something about that resident...something like "I know he enjoyed science but since he can't read, he had audible books and I always helped him order more. I fixed little things for him that he couldn't see, like his razor, his hearing aids... he called me sweet names like "doll" "jewel" "sweet" and he made me feel so smart and like a hero when I would fix those things for him by calling me a genius". His family will appreciate these little thoughts and memories.

~When I go to the funeral or memorial service I have a chance to really know that person that I cared for in a whole different way. I get to see pictures of them through their life and meet their families. It can be really healing to celebrate a person's life in this way.

It reminds me that they had a different life before they lived in the nursing home.

Try to remember: It was his time. It's a part of life. You gave him the best care you could. You made a difference in his life!

You can do the same thing for the next resident. :yes: Isn't that one of the reasons you choose to be a CNA?!

KJoRN81, ADN, RN

Specializes in Med Psych.

So sorry to hear of this. Two months ago I started my first nursing job at a LTC/rehab facility & I've already started getting attached to some of the residents, so I can only guess at how you feel.

I have no advice, just wanted to let you know I am sorry.

'The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.'

That is very hard to deal with and very common in the nursing field. To see someone walking and interacting and then 3 weeks later, they are moving slow and more inactive. I think the hardest part is when their movements slow down, and they have no energy left.

My hardest patient was the first hospice patient that I had. He had stage 4 brain cancer and had multiple lesions all over his body. To see him decline was hard, from being on no oxygen to being on oxygen. Most people have a patient that really sticks with them. And there are patients that you really like that pass also, that don't affect you the way certain ones do.

This situation is really hard. I had a wonderful 93 year hospice patient that I grew very close to. He was like my adopted grandfather. The hospice company really discouraged crossing the boundary between patient and friend. So, I didn't see him outside of my scheduled visits even though he lived in an area that I frequented quite a bit. Finally, I was leaving the hospice job and could not wait to be able to spend time w/ him. I really wanted to adopt him as my surrogate grandfather. He had no family close by and neither did I. My kids did not have a grandfather. Well, on my last visit he got a call from his cardiologist that he needed to report to the ER for a high potassium level. He was so nervous about going to the hospital. He had been declining some in recent weeks and he was having some memory problems. I think he knew he might not make it out. Well, he bounced back and forth from the rehab to the hospital a few times and then ultimately passed away in the hospital about three weeks after his initial admission. I had been to visit him several times. The last time I saw him he had had a horrible night and was sitting up in a Geri chair w/ a vest restraint on. He was confused about most everything but he knew who I was...first name and last :-). I knew his personality and routines pretty well so I gave the nurses a break and stayed for the day at his bedside so that he could come out of the restraints. I got him back in bed but he had trouble sleeping. He would doze off only to startle awake after having a nightmare. I held his hand and patted his chest and spoke quietly to him to try to calm him down so he could sleep. (They had given him Haldol the night before and I think it was affecting him badly as he took very little medication and was sensitive to most) That was the last I saw of him before he died. I still get so sad when I think about him. I was so blessed to know him for the 6 months that I did. I just wish it had been longer.

I also had a hospice pt. that was on Morphine (.5ml) every 15 minutes, 7pm - 7am shift. She had cancer and that seemed a high and frequent dose. I didn't question it as I was new to being a cna. The HHA let us give the medication, but legally we are not suppose to.

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