We're on the same side: Improving communication between nursing home and family

  • Majerovitz S
  • Mollott R
  • Rudder C
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Good communication between families and care providers is central to quality care, providing valuable insight into medical history and preferences, increasing family involvement and satisfaction, and reducing complaints. Two studies offer insight into sources of family-staff miscommunication and conflict. The Nursing Home Family Study (Study 1) interviewed 103 family caregivers to nursing home residents. The Long Term Care Community Coalition (Study 2) conducted focus groups and surveys with staff in six facilities: 323 certified nurse's assistants, 52 licensed practical nurses, and 71 registered nurses. Qualitative and quantitative data from both studies identified multiple barriers to good communication associated with both nursing homes and family caregivers. Institutional barriers include understaffing, turnover, inadequate training, policies based in a medical model, rigid routines, poor intrastaff communication, and work schedules that do not coincide with family visits. Psychosocial factors that hinder family communication include guilt, role confusion, clashes of culture and values, unrealistic expectations, and conflicting responsibilities. Specific communication problems identified by families were: making them feel guilty, criticism of their involvement, lack of information, changes made without consultation, staff have too little time to talk, high turnover, rotating shifts, and poor intrastaff communication. Similar issues were raised by nursing staff, who valued trusting, respectful relationships with supervisors and families, being consulted prior to changes, support in addressing racist or abusive comments, adequate staffing, and teamwork. Certified nursing assistants noted that family members are quick to complain but seldom offer praise, and that their intimate knowledge of the resident is rarely acknowledged. These data are applied to develop educational interventions to improve family-staff communication.

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  • S. Deborah Majerovitz

  • Richard J. Mollott

  • Cynthia Rudder

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