Main image courtesy of DYNSEO.
When you work for a senior care community, chances are you’ve come across the families of your residents. Some residents have family visit often, while others either do not have family nearby, or they are unable to visit for other reasons. While you as a staff member of a long-term care facility are responsible for the daily care of your senior patients, it’s also important for families to be involved as well. The connection that residents have to their families can provide many benefits, which is why families should be included and involved in the care plan of their loved one in the senior care facility.
But what exactly are the benefits of involving family in senior care? In this article, we’re going to discuss:
- Reasons why family should be involved in patient care
- Family and the care of dementia patients
- What are the reasons families may not be involved in patient care?
- Why families want to visit their loved ones
Mariposa Training has many online courses dealing with the relationship between the resident and their family. You can find training on topics such as:
- Supporting the Challenging Family
- Family Support: Helping Residents and Families Remain Connected
- Advance Care Planning: Building on Advance Directives
Why Family Should be Involved in Patient Care
It’s important to include family members in the care of residents in long-term care facilities
There are many benefits to including family in the care of seniors in facilities. Image courtesy of The Conversation.
Although the work and care of staff members at long-term care facilities is essential and extremely important to the wellbeing of residents, family members can also have a role to play in their care as well. The senior care community staff can meet the daily physical needs of the residents, but families can offer other forms of care, including:
- Improving the quality of care. When family members are involved in care, they are aware of exactly the kinds of activities that their loved one needs help with daily, and can let staff know. Whether that’s assistance with bathing and dressing, or helping the resident go for a walk, a family member can communicate this to a staff member in order to improve the quality of care. Family members can also let staff know what the resident prefers in ways of games or other entertainment, making it easier for staff to keep the resident happy.
- Family members are knowledgeable. Because they know the resident personally, they are able to offer suggestions or ways to improve the care of the resident. They know what their likes and dislikes are, and what their history is. This kind of information can be very helpful to healthcare and administrative staff when creating a plan of care for the resident.
- Great for patient wellbeing. There’s nothing quite like a visit from a family member to improve the mood and wellbeing of a resident. Whether the family can visit often, or whether it is a little more sporadic, residents look forward to visitors—especially when it’s family. Family visits allow residents to speak with those they might not see very often, and it gives them a chance to catch up and enjoy sharing memories or stories.
- Helps staff. When family is involved and knowledgeable about the patient’s care, it can make it easier for staff to care for them when the family is not there. Knowing that there is a relationship between family and staff, and that everyone is on the same page when it comes to care, can only improve the quality of care a resident receives.
Even though the care long-term facility staff give each and every day is crucial, it is also important to include the family, which is one of the best ways to ensure the resident’s emotional and psychosocial needs are being met.
Family and Dementia Patient Care
Having family involvement with residents with dementia can prove especially helpful
When family feels welcomed and included in their loved one’s care plan, it can be very beneficial, especially for dementia patients. Image courtesy of National Center for Equitable Care for Elders.
Although family involvement with any resident at a long-term care facility is encouraged, it can be especially helpful for those residents with dementia. After all, their family can offer some familiar faces and voices, and can help the dementia patient by speaking about memories, or even take the time to go through photos with them. Family members and staff caring for these kinds of patients can benefit from working together in order to provide the best care possible. When communication is improved, both families and staff get more positive results such as:
- Less staff burnout and stress
- Fewer conflicts
- Improvements in signs of depression
However, some family members may be unsure how to engage with their loved one as their dementia progresses. This is a great chance for staff to help out, and provide some suggestions so family members can provide ways for residents to get the most out of their visits. Instead of staying inside, consider suggesting that they spend time with their loved one outside on a patio if it’s available. Changing up the scenery and giving the dementia patient some stimulation that does not occur on a daily basis might be a great way for the family member to continue to enjoy their visits.
As the resident continues to experience cognitive decline, staff members could suggest to family that they begin reading to their loved one, as they still get to listen to the sound of a voice that may still be familiar to them. When staff and family members are working together to give quality care and enhance the daily wellbeing of dementia patients, both sides feel like they are providing a good experience for the resident with dementia.
Are there Reasons Why Family Can’t be Involved in Patient Care?
Why would family members not want to be involved in care when it benefits residents?
There is more than one reason why family cannot be involved with care as much as they would like to. Image courtesy of HealthMarkets.
We’ve seen that there are a lot of benefits when a family is involved in the care of their loved ones in long-term care facilities. The relationships between staff and family is better, communication is improved, and the overall wellbeing and care of the resident is better. So why wouldn’t all families decide to make visits and be involved with other activities with their loved one in a senior care facility? There are a couple of reasons why sometimes there are barriers to family involvement.
Their work schedule makes it difficult
Not everyone has a work schedule that allows them time to visit their loved ones in a senior care community. Sometimes they are doing shift work, or their schedule changes from week to week, making it hard to schedule a time to visit. Working at night or through the afternoon/evening could make fitting in time for a visit or to join the facility in an activity a little difficult.
Family members may also be caring for young children at home, who have after-school commitments that take up a large part of their time. The nursing facility could also be far enough away that it makes it difficult to make the trip often. Other commitments can make including a visit to their loved one in a long-term care facility difficult and stressful.
They are located far away
Even if the facility is located in the same city as the family, it may be just far enough away to cause difficulty. This is exacerbated when the family lives out of state, and their loved one resides in another one. They may want to be more involved and visit more frequently, but if they are a long car ride (or even a plane ride) away, it makes it even less likely they will be involved in the patient’s care.
If there is distance between the resident and their family, it could be as simple as they cannot afford to visit often due to the high cost of gas or airplane tickets. Economic barriers can prevent family from being involved in the care of their loved one, no matter how much they wish it was different.
There are emotional issues they need to deal with
Some family members may be dealing with their own issues when it comes to how they feel about having a loved one in a long-term care facility. Perhaps they feel guilty for taking them out of their home and placing them in a care center, or perhaps they feel like they are abandoning them, even when their loved one needs more specialized care than they can offer.
Family members may also be uncomfortable seeing their loved one in this state, especially if the resident is dealing with dementia-related issues.
Other times, family members who did not have a great relationship with their senior loved one may not want to visit or be involved in care because they hold feelings of anger or resentment towards the resident.
No communication with staff
Another reason why family members might not be visiting as often, is that there is little or no communication with staff. Staff at long-term care facilities can let family members know how much their input—and their visits—matter to the care and wellbeing of the resident. If there are opportunities for family members to get involved beyond just visits, this information could be helpful too. Many facilities offer events or activities that family members are welcome to join in on, and it would be helpful to make that information widely known.
Why Family Members Want to Visit Patients
Family members want to visit and be a part of the care plan of their loved one
It’s important to family members to stay involved in the care of their senior loved one. Image courtesy of AgeWell Cincinnati.
Families that are able to visit their senior loved ones and be a part of their care can really have an impact on the wellbeing of the senior in a long-term care facility. They want to visit and actively see how their loved one’s needs are being met—both their physical and psychosocially. While the long-term care facility can do a lot to ensure residents are stimulated, engaged with activities, and given the physical care they need, families can help out as well. They can ensure their loved one’s needs are being met, and offer any suggestions to staff to help make their senior relative more comfortable and stimulated.
Families can also bring in fun activities and photos for the resident to look at. They can also help their loved one enjoy the company of the other residents, and get them involved in activities that they might find pleasurable.
Ways to include family in your facility
In addition to making family members feel welcomed, and valuing their suggestions and ideas to enhance the care of their loved one, there are some things that a senior care facility can do to encourage family involvement.
- Keep connected with communication. When a new resident arrives, ensure their family feels welcomed as well. Provide them with resources and contacts at the facility so they know where they can turn with any questions. This way they feel encouraged to be a part of their loved one’s care team.
- Encourage them to attend special events. In addition to visits, families should be encouraged to attend special events like dinners, holiday celebrations, and spiritual services.
- Use technology to keep in touch. If families are unable to visit regularly, try to set up a way for the resident to connect via Skype, text message, email, or weekly phone calls. You can also suggest the best ways to keep their loved one entertained and engaged with devices like a tablet for streaming shows. Residents also love to get mail, and if families could write letters, that would be appreciated as well.
- Help educate them. Many family members are not trained in healthcare like staff, so it’s important to explain to them why you’re doing certain things, or why their loved one is acting a certain way. This is especially true when dealing with cognitive issues and dementia. It can be helpful for families to have someone to discuss these important and difficult issues with.
- Volunteer. Depending on their schedule, make it known that the facility welcomes volunteers. Even if the family member may not be able to devote their time to the residents, they may have contacts in other organizations such as schools, churches, or other places that might be beneficial to the facility.
Cultivating and maintaining family involvement in long-term patient care is very beneficial. When staff and family communicate clearly, they can work together to provide high-level care to the senior resident.
If your staff needs training on how to interact with residents and their family, consider some of the courses provided by Mariposa Training.