Hotel services staff provide cleaning and personal laundry services as well as preparing and serving meals and food to residents in aged care. They often know the residents very well and may develop a relationship with individual residents and their families. For residents and their families, these services are very important.
Supporting residents’ needs at the end-of-life
The physical environment of the RACF is important to the wellbeing of dying residents.  Older people appreciate privacy, dignity and a homelike environment as they approach the end-of-life. Families see clean and odour free environments as part of good care. These are all ways in which hotel services staff can positively influence how the the residents and families are managing.
Food service delivery personnel can support residents by serving small attractive meals that tempt failing appetites and by meeting requests for meals and snacks at odd times.
Staff may become concerned when a resident is not eating at all. Staff may worry that the resident has been left to starve. However, someone at the end of their life will only need small amounts of fluid and foods to satisfy their hunger or thirst. Artificial feeding is normally not recommended at the end-of-life. It is important to let the care staff know if a resident requests specific foods or is unable to tolerate food or fluid.
Many people who work in aged care worry about what to say to residents who are dying, and their families. Residents and their families do appreciate chatting to a friendly face.
Talking about the clinical care of a resident is the responsibility of the nursing staff. So suggest that residents and staff talk to the nurses about these concerns.
It is also important to remember that:
- even though the resident may appear to be asleep, unconscious or unaware of his or her surroundings - never assume that they cannot hear or understand what is being said
- do not talk about the resident in his or her presence, unless they are part of the conversation
- often people just want someone to listen. Listening and acknowledging the persons concerns are powerful ways of offering comfort.
- as death approaches the resident’s interest in the outside world may reduce and chatter may be less welcome
- it is never appropriate to talk to a colleague about your personal life in the presence of a dying resident, or his or her family.
Allowing hotel staff to participate in training sessions on communication may help them feel more confident.
The involvement of hotel services staff in the lives of the residents may not always be recognised. There is only a small amount of research about their role.
Staff may feel undervalued when they are not informed of a resident’s death or learn of it accidentally. They may feel a sense of loss when a resident dies. Maintaining a good work life balance, a healthy lifestyle and time for fun are believed to be useful in reducing stress and strengthening coping mechanisms.
Research in Victoria showed that the whole staff team affects the quality of life of residents. They also found there was confusion about the term "palliative care". Many staff thought palliative care referred only to the last few days of life.  This highlights the need for all staff of RAC to be able to learn about palliative care.
The World Health Organisation says that palliative care “intends neither to hasten or postpone death” and “offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death and to help the family