Visiting The Deceased Part I

As lockdown eases, we are starting to look to be able to facilitate viewings or visits once again for families of the deceased. It’s an aspect that I feel some people totally understand and others have no idea what to make of, so I thought I would try to explain. I envisage this taking a few parts, this first one focuses on how we set up for a visit from family members.

First of all, whether you want to say viewing or visit, both seem to be correct or cause offence in equal amounts. Some people see viewing akin to how you might say ‘viewing a property’ and feel it’s takes away some of the identity of the person. Some people don’t like to think of them visiting their loved one in the mortuary because it’s not like visiting them on a ward. It’s best with that situation to listen to the language the person uses and echo it as best you can I find. I do tend to default to say viewing most of the time however outside of that.

All of our viewings must be booked by appointment, which does come as quite a surprise to many. It means we can guarantee a member of staff able to facilitate the viewing as we need to be available, and it also means we can do any preparation that needs to happen. I will go more into this when I discuss how we set the viewing up, but some people do require more preparation than others. They may need cleaning, or they may need extra help to close their eyes or mouths to ensure they look peaceful. We are not permitted, and therefore would never, use invasive techniques to close mouths. We use items such as eye caps and mouth formers to do these things which can also be easily removed.

We ensure everyone in our fridges is wrapped so that no parts of their body are on show. Usually this is completed with a sheet or two, the person also wearing a shroud or their own pyjamas/nightwear if requested. For each viewing we remove them from the fridge on their tray, this is then placed on a trolley and we form a type of bed. We place a pillow in a fresh pillowcase under their head, usually with another sheet over this to cover the top end of the trolley. We then have a rather lovely bedspread that I would certainly have in my own home which we place over the person. We try to avoid what I’ve been shown as the ‘head in a bed’ scenario where all you can see is the face and arrange the sheets and bedspread so you have peaceful look of someone in bed asleep.

I would say this process can take anything from ten minutes to half an hour to ensure this peaceful look we aim for. Sometimes it may be necessary to wash someone’s hair before a viewing which we can do using our fruity shampoo and hairdryer, or like the best of us sometimes a bit of dry shampoo works a treat. We do our very best for people to make them look their best in death.

We have a trolley with drawers full of our tools and such which we can wheel around the mortuary to use for things such as this. We call this our ‘Care After Death’ trolley which is also the name of the training we have with the healthcare assistants and nurses. I hope this first introduction to our viewings has shown that the care really doesn’t end when someone dies. I’ll hopefully have a second part with you next week, and resume my Neck Appreciation posts at some point too! As always, if you have any questions or would like to get in touch please comment or see my contact page.

MG x

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