End of Life/Bereavement Support Program

The Pastoral Care Department of Roswell Park Cancer Institute act as coordinators of the End of Life/Bereavement Support Program. It is initiated at the time of a terminal diagnosis. With the permission of the patient or family, the Pastoral Care staff member initiates an assessment of need, including evaluation of the patient’s and family’s awareness of the prognosis, the patient’s and family’s coping resources and readiness to accept the prognosis, and the current level of patient and family support.

Once the assessment has taken place, the multidisciplinary team reviews the data and initiates an intervention tailored to the specific needs of the patient and family. The specific elements of the intervention are selected from a “menu” of program components, thus allowing the intervention to be crafted in response to the unique constellation of needs in the presenting situation of that specific patient and family. The available program elements include the coordination of related services as appropriate to provide holistic care (e.g. Social Work, Psychology, Patient Advocate,), emotional and spiritual support, values clarification interventions in order to facilitate decision-making, provision of measures to promote patient and family comfort, and the maintenance of a supportive care environment (e.g. mementos from home; accommodation of patient’s/family wishes regarding family/friend visitation.), and a quartely Bereavement Education Support Group.

The support offered through the End of Life/Bereavement Support Team continues after the death of the patient for the following year. Once again, the time and type of support will be determined by the needs of the family. The staff will continue to make contact with the family 3, 6, 9 and 12 months after the patient’s death. A needs assessment is conducted at each contact and the care coordinator will link the family to appropriate additional counseling if needed. The family will also be invited to the Institute’s Patient Remembrance Service, as well as the yearly educational evenings on grief sponsored by the Institute.