Providing Solutions to Address Grief, Bereavement, and Isolation in Long-Term Care Settings


Nursing home residents and staff have been severely impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions on social interactions and loss of family and friends have reduced resident quality of life and affected the well-being of residents and staff. Supporting resiliency in those experiencing bereavement and grief and reducing the loneliness of social isolation are key challenges facing nursing homes today.

With support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Altarum worked with residents and staff in long-term care settings across the state to address these impacts. Participants in the WellbeingTREE Learning and Action Network (LAN) benefited from relationship-based activities, building a network of peers, and sharing best practices in addressing grief, bereavement, and isolation.  


Altarum is well-respected in Michiganā€™s long-term care community through our work leading quality improvement, technical assistance, and evaluation initiatives. Skilled at producing engaging content for action-oriented LANs, we brought together field experts such as Toni Miles, MD, PhD, a grief expert in long-term care, The Eden AlternativeĀ®, and Maureen Mickus, MD, a gerontological expert on social isolation. The learning network provided education on key topics while working to involve participants in applying ideas and practices. Peer-to-peer learning and sharing best practices were a hallmark of the program. Healthcare professionals earned continuing education and in-service learning credits for their participation.   


Nearing the end of the program, Altarum exceeded its participant recruitment goal, engaging both residents and nursing home staff, including nursing home administrators and leadership members. Learning participants committed to adding or improving processes surrounding grief and bereavement such as memorial services, placement of resident wishes within their chart, and improved collaboration on care plans between hospice and nursing home staff. Additionally, participants learned best practices on social isolation and loneliness, including system transformation, resident empowerment, and identifying risk factors. Session participants grasped the value of talking about grief, bereavement, social isolation, loneliness, and other key topics that impact the daily lives of both residents or staff and strategies to better support their needs. Following the learning session series, Altarum hosted two grief and bereavement roundtable sessions, the first with Michigan nursing home staff members and the second with state and industry leaders. In these sessions, participants discussed best practices for supporting staff and residents and identified innovative solutions related to grief and bereavement policies and procedures for nursing home settings across the state of Michigan and beyond. 


Bethany Houpt
Long-Term Services and Supports Project Manager, Delivery System Transformation
Krissy Azeem
Senior Director, Delivery System Transformation