Historically there have been relatively few residents who
actually died at Northaven, as they had often been taken
to the hospital. That is changing as more people opt for
palliative care and hospice, and Northaven helps to facilitate
these interventions and support residents and their families
when they elect to die at home here at Northaven.
Traditionally residents who did die at Northaven
Independent Living were quickly taken out through the
back door so as not to upset anyone. Death is a reality. And
the death of a member of our community, a neighbor or
friend is a loss to other residents of Northaven. After several
listening sessions with our residents, we have learned that
process often leaves people startled by news someone has
died and unable to say good bye. It actually stifles grief.
So we have begun something new. When people are
choosing to stay at Northaven while they die, residents can
help them and their family, make visits and slowly say good
bye. And now when someone dies, close friends and neighbors
are notified. Depending on the wishes the resident left
behind—in consultation with their family members—residents
can have time to come to the room and say “goodbye.”
Then the body is draped in a beautiful quilt and brought
to the main lobby. People can gather there. They can be part
of a ritual. Say good bye. Support each other. And then the
resident is taken through the front door to the waiting hearse.
Residents are very grateful for the new rituals. We
were not serving anyone well by trying to minimize
death. It is part of our life. We become more and more
aware of its reality as we age. Residents actually report
feeling less frightened of their own death. And they are
so grateful to have the chance to say goodbye to people
with whom they have been friends for many years.
They are actually able to process their grief more fully,
and many report the sense of loss is not as severe as when
they used to learn after the fact that someone was gone.