Making Impossible Conversations Possible
STEP BY STEP GUIDES FOR COMMUNICATING THE DEATH OF A RELATIVE
Please click on these links for free access:
Care Home Staff
Families - how to tell children that someone has died
All of our resources below are free to access and share, and have been translated into multiple languages.
In this unprecedented pandemic one of the most emotionally difficult challenges facing healthcare workers and carers is communicating the death of a relative to families. The absence of face-to-face interactions means that staff must undertake this painful task by telephone. Adults are then faced with the seemingly impossible task of telling the children within the family the devastating news that a loved one has died. Simultaneously, children are experiencing substantial changes to their daily routine and social infrastructure, which ordinarily foster resilience to challenging events. Current evidence shows that the quality of communication has a long-term impact on healthcare workers’ and families’ psychological and physical well-being, underlining the urgent need to ensure communication is effective.
Responding to these urgent needs, our team has developed a series of step-by-step guides and animations for healthcare workers, care staff and teachers. Crucially, these guides for staff include identifying if the person had an important relationship with children (such as a parent or grandparent), so that immediate advice can be offered to the family to help them with the unenviable task of sharing the news with children. This is supported by a second guide and animation for parents and guardians which can be emailed to the family, or accessed online.
Opportunity to contribute to qualitative research about family centred communication when an adult has a serious illness
Our group are looking for collaborators who would like to join our proposed project to explore the experiences and beliefs of different communities about talking with children when an important adult in their family network has a serious illness.
Our research group’s work focuses on talking with children about an adult’s serious illness. Evidence suggests these difficult but important conversations are often avoided as parents want to protect their children and can find it difficult to access the support they want and need about what and how to tell children. The research in this area has almost exclusively involved white participants; we are applying for some pump priming funds to understand the experiences of both healthcare professionals and families from communities who are seldom heard from in research.
We would be delighted to hear from anyone working in healthcare from these communities who might be interested in working with us on this project. This could be as a named collaborator, or through joining a PPI group to inform and help develop our work in this area. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you would like to discuss our work or how you might like to get involved.
Support for Schools
The team have developed a guide specifically for school staff, to whom children may turn to ask questions or share their experiences or worries about illness and bereavement during the last few months.
Support for Care Homes
Communication to Children
It is critical to highlight the importance of ensuring adult’s everyday communication with children reflects their developmental understanding and that adults are authentic about the uncertainty and psychological challenges of the pandemic.
In 2019, we led a Lancet series summarising the available evidence on communication with children about the diagnosis of their own life-threatening disease and about a life-threatening disease in a parent.
IN THE NEWS 2020
Barnardos (Nov 2020)
Children's Mental Health - Importance of Effective Communication
The New York Times (Sept 2020):
The Atlantic (June 2020):
BBC (June 2020):
Real Talk Training (May 2020):
Communicating the Diagnosis of Life Threatening Conditions to Children, Recent Guidance Specific to COVID-19
Dr Louise Dalton and Dr Elizabeth Rapa presented their work in May 2020.
COVID Conversations: Protecting Children and Adolescents’ Mental Health, with Professor Alan Stein in conversation with Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.
This talk was broadcast on Wednesday 24th June 2020.
Questions and Feedback
If you have any questions about the resources provided, or require different formats/language versions please get in touch with a member of the team.
We would like to thank Dr Helen Griffiths, Dr Brenda Kelly, Dr Shaun Wilson, Dr Virginia Davies, Dr Sally Hope, Dr Matthew Hotton, Cecilia Hoegfeldt, Julia Ruiz Pozuelo, Helena Channon-Wells, Gemma Brock and Suzy Shepherd for their support, contributions and insight.
Generous funding for the staff animation was provided by Oxford Hospitals Charity