Guiding relatives in the grieving process
Bereavement officers face unenviable daily tasks
HELPING relatives come to terms with the loss of a loved one is undoubtedly one of the hardest jobs any medical professional faces.
At Hillingdon Hospital, where more than 60 patients die every month, the unenviable duty falls to bereavement officers such as Anne Jenkinson and Gill McGuinness.
It is their job to gently guide relatives through the process, offering support and explaining administrative formalities.
Their busiest time is on a Monday morning, as up to 20 deaths are routinely recorded over the weekend. Between ward rounds, doctors come in and out of the office to sign documentation.
“We never know what’s going to come through the door,” said Anne, 63, who has spent 25 years in the role and lives in south Buckinghamshire.
“People react differently to grief. Some want to get in and out of here as quickly as possible while others want to sit and talk. Our job is to support the relatives.
“It’s an extremely rewarding job, but it can be tough. You need to understand that people react to grief differently.”
The team works closely with doctors, who complete and sign off forms including the clinical death certificate, which is needed to officially register the death and documents its cause.
Relatives take this to the Registrar’s Office at Hillingdon Civic Centre,
The bereavement team also make funeral arrangements and help put the deceased’s estate in order if there is no next of kin.
“This includes informing the bank and utility companies.
They also ensure the necessary paperwork is completed if the body has to be flown home from the UK.
Anne says: “When I first started working here I used to have to go to the deceased’s homes to look for documentation.
“On one occasion, I went to a house where the weeds where growing up to the first-floor windows.
“The woman had been a recluse from the state of the property, but amid all the rubbish was the most beautiful antique furniture.
large cupboard full of rolled bank notes of various currencies together with lots of unsigned cheques. We discovered she had belonged to a wealthy family.”
There are heartening stories among the sadness, including that of a 97-year-old man who recently drove all the way from Southampton to collect his 90-year-old brother’s belongings.
Anne says: “He was a lovely man and just wanted to do the right thing, despite his age.
“We had a nice chat and sorted all the paperwork out.
“It makes us feel good about what we do when we can make things easier for people.
“Our mantra has always been for relatives to leave our office with a positive attitude that Hillingdon Hospital always does its best for people.”
n REWARDING JOB: Bereavement officers Gill McGuinness and Anne Jenkinson