Family involvement part of ensuring the well-being of first caregivers
JULY 24, 2019
Long after the barbecue smoke and fireworks of Independence Day have cleared, we get the opportunity to celebrate the people whose care helped shape this nation. America rests on the building blocks laid by parents. Parents are the first caregivers for their children and their influence shapes their lives forever. National Parents’ Day is every fourth Sunday in July. This year, Parents’ Day falls on July 25. It’s a good time to reflect on the important part that residents’ children play in ensuring their parents’ overall well-being.
According to the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, whenever a resident enters a long-term care facility, family members have a right to be involved in their love one’s care, unless the resident specifically denies their involvement. Though this act was designed to ensure that residents were receiving the highest quality of care, it also underscores the emotional importance of family involvement. Entering long-term healthcare can be an emotional experience for residents, characterized by feelings of loneliness and sadness. Visits from relatives provide social company and reinforce residents’ connections to their home and community life. Family members also serve as their relatives’ care advocates. Residents’ children and other loved ones are not only their primary supporters, they can be powerful allies and part of the support system for facilities as well. From the moment of admission, family members play an important part in helping the facility get to know their residents. They are invaluable in helping to ensure their loved one’s transition is smooth and comfortable. During initial resident assessments and care planning, they also help to communicate the resident’s needs and preferences.
Some researchers even believe that family involvement can play a role in the timely detection of changes in the health of residents and contribute to avoiding re-hospitalizations. A British study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing noted that family members’ had “insider” knowledge about residents, their behavior and habits. This was helpful in detecting signs of illness or worsening conditions that may go unnoticed by nursing staff. “In addition to informing care staff when they noticed changes in health, some family members’ involvement comprised educating care staff about these health changes. Thus, staff could apply this knowledge to notice changes in health when the family member was not present,” according to the study.
With so many benefits to family involvement, it is important that facilities are supportive and welcoming. They can ask relatives to share their ideas and feedback on their experience with their loved one’s care. Activities and events that invite family participation, such as family nights and holiday parties, can also be used to help reinforce connections and open engagement. At the very least, relatives should be encouraged to regularly participate in care plan review conferences. Ultimately, family involvement enhances the well-being of the residents and the facility as a whole.