Doctors Louise Dalton and Elizabeth Rapa from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, tell us about some invaluable new resources which they have designed to support healthcare professionals during this challenging time, in addition to guidance specifically for adults who need to talk to children about the death of a parent or grandparent.
With the huge pressure on staffing levels in hospitals and sadly the ever increasing number of patients and deaths, contacting families to tell them of a relative's death will be made by more junior staff who have little experience or training to make these emotionally exhausting phone calls.
Our team at the Department of Psychiatry has adapted the framework for communicating with children about their own or a parent's life-threatening condition, published in The Lancet Communication Series 2019, into practical guidance for healthcare professionals to use when - Contacting relatives by phone to communicate the death of a patient from COVID-19.
Of particular importance is identifying whether the patient was a parent, and if so, ensuring adults are supported to tell the child/children about what has happened to their parent.
With the current isolation arrangements, families will have little time or space to plan how to talk to children, this guide - How to tell children that someone has died, can be immediately distributed to adults to help them plan for these life-changing conversations with children.
These two infographic guides are freely available to everyone and we encourage you to share them widely.
Contacting relatives by phone to communicate the death of a patient
How to tell children that someone has died
These resources are of worldwide significance. They are being disseminated globally by organisations such as the World Health Organisation and UNICEF and via social media @alansteinoxford.
Thousands of deaths are occurring daily and many of these patients will be parents and grandparents, with the impact of their deaths being felt by millions of children. Research shows that effective communication has long-term implications for children and families, ignoring the immediate and long-term psychological effects of this global situation would be unconscionable.