What we know

Grief is a process of responding to a loss and it can affect all parts of a person’s life. An older person may grieve in response to a decline in physical, mental and cognitive health by virtue of their age. Bereavement is the period of grieving experienced by family and friends in response to the death of a loved one. A wide range of negative health outcomes for older adults are associated with bereavement. Understanding bereavement and how to support positive health behaviours of older adults is an important endeavour and consistent with the philosophy of palliative care.

What can I do?

If you are unsure on how to help older adults manage their grief, refer to the Guide to bereavement assessment and support (75kb pdf).

Suggest that the older person their family and friends explore the MyGrief app.

Normalising grief can be supportive eg. ‘It’s normal to feel the loss. How can I help?’.

You may recognise that someone may benefit from financial support. Direct them to the Australian Government page on What help there is when an adult dies.

If relevant, use this Tool to distinguish depression from normal grief (75kb pdf).

‘Being prepared and knowing what to expect can help. Order copies of the RePaDD booklet When someone dies in residential aged care: Grief and loss for families (5.34MB pdf), and give them to family members.

What can I learn?

See the 'Grief and Loss Among Staff' and 'Grief and Loss Among Older People, Families and Residents' palliAGED Practice Tip sheets.

Information from CareSearch: Following up the bereaved, Grief and Sadness and Remembering.

Carer Gateway hosts tips and resources for carers to look after themself.

Video on Bereavement, Grief and Loss from CareSearch.

Video and quiz:

What can my organisation do?

Incorporate bereavement support into service philosophy and standards of care.

Ensure that bereavement support is available for staff and families.

Provide staff and families with support through self-care planning and let them know about the palliAGED self-care plan for staff (161kb pdf) and self-care plan for family (205kb pdf). 

Offer ongoing training, support and supervision to health care professionals, carers and volunteers working in palliative care. Training should be relevant to their level of involvement and based on National Standards and evidence-based guidelines.

Have a list of support groups and organisations for families and carers relatives.

Ensure that families are aware of prognosis and where possible link in with hospice services and initiate discussion of advance care planning.

Page updated 07 July 2021