The Grief We Don’t Think About As Senior Living Providers

By: Paul E. Griffin III, CEO and President of Griffin Living

In the senior living business and at Griffin Living especially, we focus on the vibrancy of our residents: the unique opportunities that time, experience, and mature families present that most people don’t get to have earlier in life. That’s a wonderful thing. But a thought-provoking conversation with Hanh Brown on her podcast Boomer Living made me reflect on the grief that residents and their families are experiencing when they look at senior living options.

A large number of our residents move to assisted living after a death, which means that prospective residents (and often their adult children) are touring our facilities in the wake of a major loss of a spouse and parent. I fear we can forget to tread lightly in our exuberance for the amenities, activities, and care we provide, and risk coming off as tone-deaf to people trying to navigate a major life transition.

With this in mind, I have recommended a few points to my staff and encourage others to reflect on how they will address this grief sensitively. We don’t need to be invade the family’s privacy nor pretend we can alleviate their loss. But we can intentionally support the family so they can move through the transition together.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, it was difficult to welcome outside family to tour and visit. However, with the overwhelming majority of seniors now vaccinated, it is becoming safer every day to include family members in community tours and events. I suggest senior living providers:

  1. Invite as many family members to tour the community as possible. Have seniors come with multiple generations of family to surround them, and allow them to envision the community as a place to be together and to heal.
  2. Host events at the community for families. Meals are a good bet. We host a big Sunday brunch with omelette stations, waffle makers, and music that is popular with families. And we are thinking of more events like this all the time: Taco Tuesday, wood-fired pizza and s’mores night on the patio, etc.
  3. Make it clear that families are welcome at other times as well: invite loved ones to take part in the lectures, concerts, outings, crafts, fitness classes, and whatever else is going on in the community.
  4. Finally, consider offering bereavement support groups that meet on a regular basis with qualified facilitators.

Dealing with loss is a deeply personal process — and it’s difficult to address from the outside. But as senior living providers, we want to keep in mind that this is a place many of our prospective residents and their families are. At Griffin Living, we will meet them where they’re at and offer a place for them to come together as a family, to heal, and to thrive.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

An award-winning, privately-owned real estate development company specializing in innovative senior living projects.

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