As a professional counselor, it is possible that you may experience the death of an older adult client due to natural causes, suicide, or other circumstances. What are some potential ethical and confidentiality issues that may arise in the event of an older adult client death? For example, someone may seek client records due to the death of the client. What are some ways that counselors can cope with a client death? Please list at least two resources counselors can use to cope with a client death to share and discuss with the class.
Lehmiller, J., Whitbourne, Stacey B., & Whitbourne, Susan K. (2020). Human Sexuality and Issues in Aging for Grand Canyon University (Custom). Wiley ISBN-9781119828099 – Custom. (Available as a custom ebook-includes only Chapters 1, 2 , 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 13, 14, and 15 from Lehmiller, J. (2017). The Psychology of Human Sexuality (2nd ed.). ISBN- 9781119164739; Chapters 1, 2, 5, 11, 12, and 13 from Whitbourne, Stacey B., & Whitbourne, Susan K. (2020). Adult Development and Aging, (7th ed.). ISBN ISBN 9781119607878)
Christy GoodwinPosted DateNov 26, 2021, 6:03 PM(edited)UnreadHello everyone,Death is imminent and I think it is important that as the client ages and/or shows concern about death that it is appropriate for a counselor to help a client with the different areas if they are ready but some people still die with things unfinished. I think it would be helpful to add things in assessments regarding issues that may arise with death but even utilizing this there will still be clients without it. Confidentiality typically extends beyond death unless someone has been deemed a party by the deceased to access the records. If this information has not been left then the federal government usually defers to the laws of individual states. “Though most state laws are sufficiently clear, the hierarchy may be complex, and some situations will still require judgment calls. Facility staff who are unclear on the law may err on the side of caution and refuse access rather than risk violating privacy laws. On the other extreme, they may release records without requesting proper verification or release them rather than upset or anger the requestor. The best practice, experts say, is to gain knowledge of the law, share it, and request that patients identify their representatives during the admission process” (AHIMA, 1968). The therapist could encounter ethical and confidentiality issues if a client did not leave proper instructions regarding medical records. It is in a therapist’s best interest to know their state laws and licensing requirements due to this and possibly contact a court official if the law is not clear. Counselors grieve their clients and may need therapy of their own to deal with it. In general, counselors care about the well-being of their clients so it is not uncommon for a therapist to experience grief. Two resources that therapists/counselors can use are the American Counseling Assoication which has a plethora of articles for different issues related to death and there is the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the National Alliance of Caregiving could be a great resource for therapist and families. The ACA Code of Ethics and Resources are also available from American Counseling Association. I am thirty-nine and feel weird (for lack of a better term) creating a living will or power of attorney. I have this stupid thought that it will jinx me. I know it is irrational but I still feel that way. Does anyone else get these feeling.
Jordyn MoodyPosted DateNov 26, 2021, 7:57 PMUnreadReplies to Ron FriesenFirst off, this would be a hard time and I am not looking forward to the first time that this happens when I start practicing. Death is an unsettling topic that makes one reexamine their life and priorities so a counselor must keep a clear mind when this happens and follow the law or their ethical guidelines. One resource for counselors in this situation is the American Counseling Association [ACA] Code of Ethics. Standard B.3.f in the ACA Code of Ethics (2014) states that counselors should protect the confidentiality of deceased clients in a way that follows legal requirements and preferences the client had noted. So, the counselor can use their best judgment at times if they have documentation of whether the deceased would have liked their records shared or not. Another resource for counselors is their state laws. Each counselor should familiarize themselves with this in their state because we have an ethical responsibility but also a legal one. Counselors can seek guidance from a supervisor or colleague regarding the decision to share records of a deceased client or not. Something to keep in mind as we are starting out in this career is to document if our clients mention things of this nature, for even death can happen to younger clients and we should always be as prepared as possible to deal with this. When reading a Counseling Today article from 2006 the creators of the ACA Code of Ethics were giving some examples surrounding standard B.3.f and they explained that if their client died suddenly and tragically but had said some really nice things about family members before he passed the counselor might share this information with the family to bring them some peace (Kaplan, 2006). They also shared that if a father committed suicide and the children were trying to get the records to prove he was crazy to contest his will the counselor should choose not to share the records and respect the confidentiality of the client (Kaplan, 2006).