Engaging family in resident care

PHOENIX—There are many ways to ease the trepidation of families placing a loved one in long-term care. Rita Altman, national director of memory care services, Sunrise Senior Living; Michael Goins, executive director of Chelsea Senior Living; and Brenda Abbott-Shultz, vice president, resident and family services, Benchmark Assisted Living, discussed ways to accomplish this during the Assisted Living Federation of America 2010 Conference & Expo.

Before move-in, all paperwork should be complete. “Once that’s done, you can focus on the resident,” Abbott-Shultz says. “You can also support the family.” Other tips are to plan a week-ending goal for the resident and family. Also set communication objectives prior to move-in. If mom has medication problems, or there are billing issues, whom should the administration call among the family members?

Once the connection is created, it needs to be maintained through monthly newsletters, family and friends luncheons or dinners, and by always speaking to the family with complete honesty. Be empathetic, empowered, professional, and unobtrusive, Abbott-Schultz says.

“A staff training program is imperative,” she explains. “With everything else going on, they will remember the staff and little else.”

The panelists also said the best way to eliminate problems is to head them off before they happen. Seek out the family and discuss the issue before it becomes evident or hostile.

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