Family & Caregivers: Partners in Care
As anyone with an aging loved one knows, family dynamics change. Children grow up; parents get older; the roles of “carer” and “cared for” are reversed.
A transition into long term care invites new questions, as well – questions like:
- “How can I tell if it’s time for long term care?”
- “What kind of community should we look at for my loved one?”
- “How can I convince Mom to move to assisted living?”
- “What if Dad’s needs change?”
- “How can I help make sure my loved one is taken care of?”
If your loved one is needing long term care, you don’t face these questions alone.
Families’ partners in care? Nursing home and assisted living staff.
Why Families & Caregiver Partnerships Are Important
A strong family/caregiving team partnership is critical for seniors’ wellbeing – both in terms of specific health outcomes and day-to-day comfort and care.
Families should try to work in tandem with caregivers to share insights into residents’ needs and desires, navigate your loved one’s condition(s) and nursing needs, and provide support for each other when needed.
This support goes both ways. One study found that when families and staff increased communication about residents receiving dementia care, long term care staff reported lower levels of burnout, families and staff experienced fewer conflicts, and residents displayed decreased negative behavioral symptoms.
How To Build Your Family/Caregiver Partnership
First, identify a primary contact person on behalf of your family.
Because of health privacy issues, staff need to have permission from the resident or a designated representative to give out resident information. You also want to make sure staff are focused on providing care to your loved one, not making numerous calls to all members of your family. Talk to your family members and work together as a family unit to identify who should be the primary point of contact. This individual can then share updates with the rest of the family. Even if you are not the primary contact, you can still stay engaged with your loved one.
Next, see if you can find a nursing home or assisted living community that is close to you.
Research indicates that travel times have an impact on family involvement. Families are more likely to come see residents at least weekly if the facility is less than an hour away. And those visits can make a difference. Regular visitation from family members has been linked to improved health outcomes for residents, including a stronger immune system, improved mental health, and improved brain health.
If you live close to your loved one in long term care:
- Get involved with your loved one’s care team from day one. Ask questions during initial tours of communities, lend a hand on move-in day, and help establish an open dialogue.
- View your loved one’s care staff as your teammates. Who does your loved one receive care from every day? Try to get to know them personally – their names, positions, and the type of care they offer.
- Take time to visit. Schedule your visits and check in with care staff periodically to discuss any recent changes to your loved one’s care or condition(s).
If you are distanced from your loved one or unable to visit in-person:
- Check in with your loved one’s care team. Schedule regular calls with your loved one’s caregivers to get health and behavior updates.
- Check in with your loved one as frequently as you can. Calls, e-mails, video calls – touching base with your loved one will help you stay connected and informed about how they’re doing.
Looking for the perfect care team for your loved one? Use our Care Finder tool to check out long term care communities in your area.