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Communicating with Long-term care staff

Quote Bubbles.jpgIt can be difficult when you find your loved one’s care needs go beyond what you can provide at home.  You may know in your heart that this is the best thing to do, but  relinquishing the responsibilities of being their primary caregiver when they make the move can be challenging. After all, you know your loved one best, but the care team at your loved one’s community is prepared to be your partner and they want to do what’s best for your loved one’s care and well-being. All you have to do is establish open communication and TALK to them.

Talking builds relationships. Chances are, when your loved one first moves into a community, they won’t know anyone. It’s likely that the first people that they meet are the caregivers.  Overtime, these relationships will grow into trusted friendships.  Until that happens, they will communicate with your loved one and encourage them to go out and meet other residents. Your relationship with the caregivers is important, too. 

Communication leads to higher levels of care. Respectful, honest and open communication  benefits everyone.  It can help your loved one trust their caregiver more, as well as help the caregiver provide better care.  The more you and your loved one can communicate their needs, the better prepared the staff will be to deliver more personalized care.. 

Strong relationships with staff benefits you.  As a rule, the more you talk to the care team and the more you ask questions, the better for everyone.  The caregiver for your loved one, can give you insights into their situation and provide realistic input about any accomplishments or setbacks.. This will become one of your primary (and best) sources of information in the wellbeing of your loved one.  

Ways to Strengthen Communication with Staff

1.      Start at the beginning.  Ask to be introduced to the staff and find out what each person’s role is.  Discover who the hands-on providers are and who are the leaders?  Introduce yourself and tell them your relationship to the person they are caring for, and how often you expect to visit.

2.     See  if they have an introductory or welcome package for family members to help you become acquainted with the facility and their rules.  You may want to set that aside for a bit just to give yourself time to adjust to the changes in your lives, It’s ok to have  whatever emotions you are having surrounding this moment, so give yourself permission to feel them. 

3.     Tell them about your loved one as a whole person.  Talk about their  likes, dislikes, and interests. Share hobbies and preferences.   If the caregiver knows your loved one better, they will be able to start meaningful conversations and help your loved one feel known. Be sure to tell the care team if your loved one is a morning or evening person, and any other insights that may help them plan accordingly. 

4.     Tell them about you!  Create some common ground with the staff.  If you’re worried about something, let them know.  Express your own fears and interests, too.  Building this relationship will likely benefit your loved one and you. Tell the staff you still want to be part of your  loved one’s care and let them know how you’d like to be contacted .

5.     Keep track of your questions.  Get a notebook to record any questions you have, important information, names of staff, etc.This can help you to stay organized if you keep everything in one place. Plus, it’s a good barometer of progress over time.

6.     Ask who the doctor is and arrange for a meeting.  You want to develop a relationship before a medical crisis.  Express any concerns you may have about the health of your loved one. Ask your questions and get an up-to-date list of the medications they are on. Keep this in your notebook. 

7.     Join any scheduled care conferences with the team.  This is a great opportunity to be together with doctors, nurses, nursing assistants, dietitians, social workers, recreation therapists and client advocates.  These conferences allow you to get an overview of the team and to hear different opinions regarding decisions that may affect your loved one. Don’t be shy about asking your questions.  Remember they are there to help.

8.     If a problem arises, try to act with consideration and respect.  If you have concerns about your loved one’s comfort or care, gather the information you need before reacting.  You definitely want to hold them accountable, but anger and blaming could damage your relationship and make it more difficult going forward. .

9.     Show appreciation. You know that caring can be a thankless job, so a little appreciation will go a long way.  Little things mean a lot when showing gratitude for your care team.  A simple “thank you”, a card, making cookies, or just a warm smile can show how much you value the time, care and support they give your loved one. ​​​​​

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