Greg Ryan is a Chaplain with Hospice of Lake Cumberland.

We have lived now 6 months with this COVID 19 pandemic.  This plague has affected all of our lives in one degree or another  we have been forced to accept restrictions like wearing masks and not visiting our loved ones in Nursing Homes.

It is the grief associated with not being able to see loved ones in nursing homes that I want to talk about.  Not allowing visitors has been the right decision by those in management in these nursing home decisions.  But keeping family away specifically when their loved one is passing is not a good thing

Here is the reason why?   Because the last memories at the bedside of our loved ones are critical to helping with our grief.  We want to know their last words spoken. We want to hold their hands and say comforting words. We desire to pray and sing songs to ease their transition.  None of these things have been allowed in many nursing homes I our area

I was shocked when I advocated for a son and daughter in law to be with his 88 year old mother before she passed. I begged the nursing home charge nurse to let them in and they refused. The Patient she died two days later.

Grief has a lot to do with closure.  In these situations with Hospice patients in nursing homes we have stood by and watched the family grieve the separation.  As a result of the restrictions in nursing homes , from two facilities we have had a half dozen families choose to bring their loved ones home to die.  In every instance it was the right choice.  They got their closure time and final goodbyes were said.

I’m not a fan of cremation though I understand why some folks choose that option.  My concern is that closure with direct cremation is often times overlooked. While providing grief support to these individuals there is a distinct difference from a traditional funeral.  In processing their grief they often speak of the process necessary for cremation.  This can become a barrier they must overcome.

Back to the main issue of closure and the lack of it happening currently in nursing homes.  I would suggest that loved ones place more pressure upon the nursing home managers to allow for brief visits twice a week.   The inconvenience to nursing home staff is not an inconvenience at all! They are grateful for patients loved ones to visit

These issues with grief and closure need to be worked out.  Because this COVID 19 pandemic is here to stay in nursing homes.  What is more important,  than being with your loved one when he or she is dying?

Greg Ryan. Hospice chaplain.