Eve Wilson from Cruse Bereavement Care describes a valuable partnership to improve bereavement support for ExtraCare’s residents…

Bereavement is a normal part of every life. It is however a major life stress, and for older people can occur at a time when coping resources are diminished.

Raising Awareness

National charity, Cruse Bereavement Care has been working in partnership with ExtraCare to improve bereavement support for residents, including those living with dementia. Over 130 residents and 75 staff have now attended information sessions since January 2017. The sessions raise awareness about the impact of grief and how you can support yourself or someone else following a bereavement. One resident reported that the sessions were “very helpful because everyone will go through this pain and we now know how to deal with it.”

The project is based around a peer support model – residents providing ‘listening support’ to other residents who have experienced loss and bereavement.

As well as providing immediate support and reducing isolation, Bereavement Supporters have been able to signpost residents to further help. For example, a Bereavement Supporter recognised that a resident’s symptoms went beyond an expected grief reaction, and encouraged them to book a GP appointment which revealed an undiagnosed condition.

Resident’s View

Millie and George are residents at Pannel Croft Village in Birmingham and both trained as Bereavement Supporter volunteers. What’s their view?

Millie said: “The training was very good. It helped knowing the right things to say and it helped learning to support the person and not ‘take over’. The volunteers also found that bereavement isn’t just about the death, it’s the knock-on effect that brings up wider issues like finance or relationships.”

George added: “Over the years I’ve had close friends and well-loved family members die. These experiences have motivated me to give support in a manner that can ease distress. Cruse training has given me what I regard as ‘added value’, to enable me to deliver and become a more informed bereavement supporter in my village.”

Cruse is also providing Loss and Bereavement Awareness training for ExtraCare staff, described by one attendee as “helpful in both my job role and personal life”.

Expanding the Project

The project is currently focussed on ExtraCare’s cluster of five Birmingham villages. It will be rolled out to the rest of ExtraCare’s villages and schemes over the next five years. In 2018, Cruse’s specific goal is to train ExtraCare staff to support bereaved residents living with dementia, and their carers.

Whilst bereavement is a ‘normal’ part of everyday life, it certainly doesn’t feel like it for those affected. Talking about it really can help. As Millie explained: “Bereavement is part of life. It’s not going away. Death is still a taboo subject, but is something that has to be talked about. Death knows no age so we need to talk about it now.”

Eve Wilson is a Project Manager for Cruse Bereavement Care, the leading national charity for bereaved people. Cruse Bereavement Care has been working in partnership with ExtraCare to improve bereavement support for residents, including those living with dementia, as part of the five year Bereavement Supporter project funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

For more information contact Eve at: eve.wilson@cruse.org.uk
www.cruse.org.uk