Talking About Dying

Talking about death and dying can be difficult for residents and their families and it can also be difficult for health professionals and those who work in residential aged care. It can be hard to tell someone that the goals of care are now about comfort. However, these difficult conversations can improve the care that the resident receives and help the resident to decide what is important. Clear and effective communication is fundamental to the provision of quality palliative care.

Effective communication:

  • allows staff to identify individualised care needs and to provide individualised care
  • has been linked to improved quality of life and wellbeing in RAC
  • may reduce agitated behaviour in residents with impaired cognition, and
  • requires specific skill sets. [1]

Communication skill training can enhance the quality of staff communication and have a positive influence on resident care and family satisfaction with care. Effective training programs include provision of relevant information, an opportunity to practice skills and support to implement them (including positive feedback) in the workplace. [1]

For many residents, interaction with staff during care is an important source of social engagement.  However time poor careworkers may be task focused and interaction with the resident limited. Communication skills training for careworkers can improve the quality of interactions with residents. This may improve psycho-social support of residents with dementia. [2]

The value of communication skills training for palliative care staff has been recognised by the National Health Service (NHS) of the UK. The National End of Life Strategy (781kb pdf) recognises communication skills as a core competency for all staff providing end-of-life care.

  1. McGilton KS, Boscart V, Fox M, Sidani S, Rochon E, Sorin-Peters R. A systematic review of the effectiveness of communication interventions for health care providers caring for patients in residential care settings. Worldviews Evid Based Nurs. 2009;6(3):149-59. Epub 2009 Jun 11.
  2. Levy-Storms L. Therapeutic communication training in long-term care institutions: recommendations for future research. Patient Educ Couns. 2008 Oct;73(1):8-21. Epub 2008 Jul 24.

Residential Aged Care


Last updated 28 September 2017