When her mother was on the verge of death in an aged care facility in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Angela took an 8am call to say the family should come to their mother’s bedside. But on the way, Angela received another call.
“Do you want your mother buried or cremated?” asked the person on the other end of the line.
“Is mom dead? Angela asked.
An awkward silence. “Yes.″
After that, there was no effort to console the family, no help clearing their mother’s room. No communication at all. Six months later, Angela received the following customer satisfaction survey written out of condolence: “How are you? On behalf of the entire healthcare team, I would like to once again offer our condolences to you and your family on your recent passing. We were honored to be able to provide care and support to your loved one at such an important time – and thank you for entrusting their care to us.
“Providing care with compassion and dignity is our mission, and we would like to know if you think we have fulfilled our role in supporting you and your family with kindness. There is a short four question survey after this note and we would appreciate your feedback on your experience with us, and any suggestions you may have that could help us support other families.
If you’re outraged by the treatment of this family, it’s probably because you weren’t exposed to death in Australia. Over a third of all deaths in Australia occur in aged care facilities and over 96% of those who enter aged care facilities die there. Overworked and exhausted elderly social workers struggle to provide their residents with a good life, let alone a good death.
Outrage, however, is the right answer. Angela was hurt by the establishment’s outreach. The wounds reopened: “If I went to buy a cheeseburger at McDonald’s, I could complete a survey by circling a smiley or a grumpy. They didn’t even pick up the phone to talk to me. My mother was not a cheeseburger.