Patient Care: Communicating Death

For first responders, one of the most difficult situations they face is when a patient is non-responsive, and their efforts become futile. If your clients’ operations involve taking emergency calls, this is, unfortunately, a situation they will have to face sooner or later. Nothing will make this situation easy for anyone. However, there are some specific ways for communicating death to loved ones after a person has died that allow healing to begin.

Avoid Trying to Fix Things

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of this situation for emergency responders is wanting to make things better for loved ones of the deceased. However, nothing can fix the situation in that moment. The loved ones have just lost someone they care about. Your clients cannot change that. However, they can do an important thing to help the loved ones begin the grieving process — they can step back. If bereaved people start to cry, let them. This is not cold. Responders have just been trying to save the loved one. If it cannot be done, they need to let grieving begin without interfering.

Invite Loved Ones to Offer Their Good-Byes

If your clients know CPR has become futile for a patient, they can offer loved ones a chance to say goodbye. There are some things they can do to make this process less uncomfortable, including:

  • Continue resuscitation efforts even if a patient has died and inform the loved ones every few minutes the person has not responded
  • Succinctly state they will administer one last treatment or shock and then stop their efforts
  • Allow the loved ones to say goodbye while they continue CPR

The most important point here is to maintain resuscitation efforts to some degree until the loved ones have said their goodbyes. They can then be told the patient has died.

Communicate Clearly

If a patient has died, and this has been pronounced, your clients should avoid euphemisms such as “passed away” or a statement such as “We could not save him” when telling the loved ones. They should clearly state the patient is deceased in a simple, clear way, such as “Your husband has died.” This may seem abrupt or thoughtless, but when people are severely stressed, their thoughts are muddled. Clear words that get the point across are the best — and kindest — choice.

Emotionally Trying Circumstances

Your clients who make emergency calls as first responders will face this difficult situation at some point. A final thing for first responders to remember in these emotionally charged situations is that silence is fine. They should not rush and try to fill silences. At this point, empty words are meaningless and may even cause more hurt, if they indeed register at all. Silence has its own sort of presence. After your clients have done all they can, they should let things be.

About Provident Insurance Programs 

With roots dating back to 1902, Provident Insurance Programs is a program administrator that serves paid and volunteer firefighters in addition to emergency medical responders with numerous custom-tailored insurance programs. We’ve also extended our expertise and experience to offer benefit plans and coverages to participant groups as well as Transportation Benefits. We are committed to continuing to provide superior customer service, and would be happy to speak with you to provide further information. Give us a call today at (855) 201-8880 to speak with one of our representatives.