Family Involvement in Programming linked to Resident Well-Being

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Family Involvement in Programming linked to Resident Well-Being

Posted on October 25, 2013

The latest 2013 Seniors Housing & Care Journal from the National Investment Center highlights interesting findings related to families and their importance in resident care.

Based on a six-month randomized trial of 18 residential care/assisted living settings and six nursing homes, the researchers found that family involvement in the care of residents improves resident quality of life as well as family and staff relations. These findings highlight the importance of regularly engaging family members in the lives of long-term care residents. The families developed roles related to helping residents “do things, get around, look good or eat well.” The researchers’ findings also suggest that family members can support strong relationships with the assisted living resident by engaging in activities such as reminiscing and help produce greater life satisfaction and less depression in the resident.

With the holidays coming up, family visits are going to be more frequent. Here are 5 key tips to make them successful:

1. Keep the family informed: It becomes the staff’s responsibility to help the family through this process. It is important to keep the family updated on an elder’s condition. If a family member is visiting for the first time give them a tour of the facility and let them know what goes on with their family member so they feel comfortable. Communication is a strong tool in making family members comfortable even if they cannot always be present.

2. Understanding the perspective of the family: Another way that staff can help family is to be understanding. When an elder moves into a new environment it can be a shock and a big adjustment for family. Family members may be feeling angry or guilty about the changes and they may need someone to talk to or listen to them. Try to understand that family members’ anger is usually at the situation not at the staff. Showing support to the family will bring them comfort and make them feel better about their family member being in a caring facility.

3. Proper scheduling: Scheduling of family visits is also important because we want to make the most of them. Family members should know dropping by just at any time isn’t always best. Visits are most successful when the resident is alert and feeling fresh. Mealtimes are great for the family to visit so they can share in that experience with the resident. A bad time to visit would be when a resident is getting daily care, such as changing or getting their medicine, because it will feel like an interruption and overtake the visit. Visiting during activities is only successful when the family can participate in the activity. We don’t want a resident to choose between family and their favorite activity. If a staff member notices a time of day when a resident is bored or feeling lonely that would be the best time for a visit. Special events like anything going on for the upcoming holidays are great times for visits. Residents are able to share in the holiday experience with their family as well as with other residents and the staff of the facility which is more meaningful.

4. Family participation: a great way to keep the family involved in the life of their loved one is to give them an active role in programming and activities. This can be done by gathering information on the residents, suggesting activities that would be appreciated and also give feedback to the family. When a family member suggests an activity, always let them know how the activity was received. The most successful activities are also when the family participates!

5. Ending the visit: The last thing to ensure a good visit is to help them end well. Leaving is always hard for the family and the resident. Try to plan on ending a visit when the resident is going to leave to do something else like a meal or an activity. This will make the transition much smoother. Family should also make a point to set up another time to visit. Staff can step in and help them set up a good time that is appropriate. Bringing a resident a card or a picture to have after they leave is something a family member can do to make the resident feel special. Staff should also encourage family to call and send letters and cards in between visits. This will help the resident feel loved even when the family is not there. Staff can also remind residents when their family is coming and help to plan something so they get the most from the visit. Sometimes visits are the only contact residents have with their family so it is important for staff to help these visits go smooth and be successful.