How to Forge Strong Relationships with Residents’ Families


Melissa Milanez, RN, executive director, Sunnyside Assisted Living

When your senior care facility engages with potential residents, you’re also likely engaging with their families. Residents’ families play an important role in helping them to choose the right facility, but your relationship with those families doesn’t have to end there.

In fact, focusing on building strong, ongoing relationships with residents’ families has many important benefits for everyone involved, and it isn’t difficult to do.

Why It’s Important to Develop Relationships with Families

Developing relationships with residents’ families can help in multiple ways. Melissa Milanez, RN, executive director of Sunnyside Assisted Living in Sunnyside, Washington, explains that positive communication and relationships with residents’ families are key to building trust.

“Our overall goal at Sunnyside Assisted Living is to provide the best life possible for our residents through connection, comfort, and safety,” she says. “Maintaining a trusted partnership with our residents’ families is an important part of that process. When everyone feels comfortable with the quality of care being given, we’re able to work as a team to make sure that each resident’s needs are properly being met.”

The pandemic made maintaining that communication challenging and, in many cases, it required that facilities pivot how they communicated with families. Milanez explains that during the pandemic, Sunnyside Assisted Living largely communicated with families over the phone, through email, or through letters.

“Ensuring ongoing communication and trust during this time wasn’t the same or easy, but we managed well and did the best we could. We are so grateful that the foundation of our relationships prior to the pandemic was built on trust, and so, transitioning from in-person communication to virtual for a period of time was received well and understood,” she says.

Strategies to Successfully Build Relationships with Families

Transparency is essential in any relationship, and Milanez notes that transparency is the basis of the relationships she develops with residents’ families. Milanez describes an “open door policy” that encourages families to freely voice concerns or complaints about any care their loved one receives. “We find that offering our families a platform to be heard opens a huge opportunity for building trusted relationships that are built on honesty and commitment to the resident we’re serving,” she explains.

Social media also provides a way to maintain that important transparency. By posting photos of residents participating in activities to the facility’s Facebook page, families can see that their loved ones are participating and enjoying life.

In addition to social media, Milanez tries to email or call families weekly, too. She credits those extra efforts as being key to maintaining relationships, particularly during the pandemic.

Milanez encourages other senior care facilities to embrace that same transparency and to keep in touch with families regularly. “Approach the relationship from the standpoint of compassion and knowledge,” she says. “The shared relationship we have with our families is that our ultimate goal is to maintain the physical and emotional well-being of our residents; that’s also all our families want.

“By keeping open lines of communication, being honest, and sharing the joy that their loved one is experiencing under our roof, relationships naturally strengthen, and trust naturally grows.”

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