Aged care facilities need relationships

Aged care facilities need relationships

30 Aug 2011

A La Trobe University study has found that low level aged care facilities need to create environments that are helpful to the establishment and maintenance of constructive staff-family relationships.

old personProfessor Rhonda Nay and Dr Michael Bauer from La Trobe’s Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care (ACEBAC) highlight in the study—Improving family–staff relationships in assisted living facilities: the views of family— a number of practice considerations for care staff to foster relationship-centred care with the family in low level aged-care facilities.

‘Much of what we know about staff-family relationships in residential care has been derived from nursing homes, where care is focused on more complex resident needs,’ says Professor Nay.

‘Study findings suggest that there is potential for family and staff to work more creatively together, not only during the admission period, but in the longer term to help form enduring and positive relationships with the view to helping the resident and the family better integrate into the life of the facility.’

Select aged care facilities in metropolitan Melbourne were used to examine the views of family members though a series of interviews. They focussed on the ways in which staff-family relations could be strengthened for the benefit of the resident.

‘Collaboration with the willing family is widely acknowledged to be important in the care of the older person. Previous work in nursing homes has shown that staff-family relationships are often ambiguous. Relatively little is known about the issue of staff-family relationships in assisted living (low care) facilities,’ says Dr Bauer.

Low care facilities are an integral part of the Australian residential aged care system and are owned and operated by a combination of private, state government, community based, religious and charitable service providers.

‘Strengthening the relationships between staff and family will provide a continuum of care so residents do not need to relocate to a high level care facility when their needs increase,’ says Professor Nay.

Older people who are generally able to move about independently and who require only limited supervision and assistance with personal care activities such as hygiene, meals and toileting and only the occasional nursing care live in this type of accommodation. Of the 157,607 older people receiving care in the 2873 Australian residential care homes, 31.5 per cent reside in low level care facilities.

As the economic burden of caring for an ageing population increases and more older people are admitted to low care facilities, an understanding of the complexities of the staff-family nexus and how these two groups engage is needed.

‘Strategies to support families and staff, as well as optimizing the care for residents, can be developed through systems and processes that encourage and support family inclusion in decision-making. This is required to ensure the ‘feel’ of a facility, which we know is important to family, is translated into everyday practice,’ says Dr Bauer.

The study revealed that participating family carers shared a common goal of wanting to work in partnership with staff for the care of the resident. By building partnerships with the staff, family carers were able to engage with the facility more effectively and ensure that the care needs of the resident were being met.

‘Engaging the family in the residential care setting is generally acknowledged to be important in the care of the older person. Negotiating collaboratively the roles families and staff will adopt and providing information packs to assist families making the transition to care demonstrate that families are valued members of the team,’ says Dr Bauer.

The study—Improving family–staff relationships in assisted living facilities: the views of family—was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing and available on request.


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