When someone is receiving palliative care it can an emotional time. This is true for them and their families. There is information on CareSearch that can help.

No one can say how you should feel, or what emotions you will experience when someone is dying.

Sometimes, there are particular issues relating to residential aged care (RAC).

  • Families may have promised that they would care for the resident at home. They may feel guilt that they could not keep that promise. They may also feel relieved that the burden of care has been lifted.
  • Caring for someone with dementia can be very rewarding. It can also be very stressful. As the disease progresses people with dementia may not recognise family or friends. They will slowly become unable to communicate.
  • For family and friends this can be a time of sadness and distress. Many find it difficult to visit, when the person they cared for does not know they are there. Visitors will often come less often and for shorter periods of time.
  • As many residents may be very frail and their death may be viewed as a relief. Families may have been grieving long before their actual death. This is not unusual. However, sometimes people feel guilty or think that they should feel more sadness.

Sometimes grieving may be delayed. They may experience feelings of loss and sadness weeks or months after the death. Sometimes, relatives can feel very angry for many reasons with:

  • the difficult behaviours of the person with dementia
  • other family members for not doing enough
  • others who are caring for the person with dementia.

If this is happening to you, you can talk to your GP, a counsellor or support group.

Relatives often visit the RACF frequently. They make many contacts with staff and residents. They can experience a double sense of loss after a resident dies. They grieve the loss of a loved one. They can also grieve the loss of a routine and a sense of belonging to the community inside the RACF. Many relatives re-establish their lives, develop new interests or revive old interest in time. Some will find comfort in returning to the RACF as a volunteer.

Many RACFs have ways of remembering residents who have died. They may invite relatives back for an annual memorial service. They may continue sending newsletters, or have some other way of including families after residents have died.

Need to talk to someone?

If you need to talk about your loss, counselling is available from:

  • Dementia Australia, National Dementia Hotline 1800 100 500
  • Commonwealth Carer Respite Centres  1800 242 636
  • Useful Tip

There are no right or wrong feelings. Counselling is confidential and can help you to understand and cope with feelings that may be troubling you.


For Patients, Carers and Families

Last updated 14 February 2018