The prevalence of bereavement rooms at German hospitals: a cross-sectional observational study from 2016

Burkhard Dasch, Michael Wagner, Peter K. Zahn


Background: Hospitals represent the most frequent place of death in Germany. Therefore, these health institutions should be adequately prepared for post-death caring for deceased patients and their bereaved relatives. To enable the next of kin a dignified farewell to the deceased in a private atmosphere, some hospitals have established a bereavement room. To date, no data exist on the prevalence of bereavement rooms at German hospitals.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional observational study at all German hospitals with 100 or more beds for the year 2016. A questionnaire was used to collect data on the existence, structure and organization of bereavement rooms. The data were presented descriptively by analyzing absolute and relative frequencies. The prevalence of bereavement rooms was derived from these calculated numbers.
Results: Of the 1,281 eligible hospitals, a total of 301 hospitals participated (23.5%). A bereavement room existed at 230 hospitals, corresponding to a prevalence of 76.4% (230/301) for the participating hospitals. Concerning all German hospitals ≥100 beds, a prevalence of at least 17.9% (230/1,281) was determined. These special rooms existed most commonly for a duration of 10 to 25 years (39.1%); were mainly located near an autopsy room (46.5%) and in the basement (31.3%); were used very frequently (30.9%), moderately (37.4%) or rarely (24.8%); were mostly designed with esthetic features like flowers and candles (80.4%) and often equipped with religious symbols (79.1%), and had air conditioning in only 37.4% of respondent answers. The responsibility for the bereavement room had mainly been transferred to the hospital pastoral care and the nursing staff.
Conclusions: In 2016, less than one in five German hospitals ≥100 beds provided a bereavement room. This may indicate that more attention should be paid to the post-death care of deceased patients and bereaved relatives in hospitals.