Preventing difficult family situations (McKnight’s LTC News)

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Preventing difficult family situations

I listened with great interest last week to McKnight’s Fall Expo talk on Pain relief: Dealing with difficult family and resident situations. Attorney Matthew J. Murer provided excellent information on how to work with families to prevent conflicts over treatment and other care issues.

Here, from a psychological perspective, are some additional ideas to prevent or reduce disagreements over care, thereby decreasing the likelihood that the situation will result in legal action.

1. Create systems that easily allow family members to be part of the treatment team.

We collect initial data from families upon admission, but there’s often more family members can and want to add to care.

Staff members may have difficulty adequately involving families because it’s not a fluid part of their workflow. Family members tend to visit in the evenings and weekends when the administrative and day shift workers are no longer in the facility, for example, and care plan meetings are held during working hours when many family members aren’t available.

Inviting relatives to meetings via secure video chat, establishing weekend or evening hours for key personnel such as social workers, and implementing a comprehensive communication system that transmits family information between shifts and departments can help.

In addition, staff members should be trained so that they’re genuinely receptive to information provided by loved ones rather than creating the impression that the family is a nuisance. (I’ve seen this!)

2. Educate families about the illnesses of their loved ones.

Many residents are given diagnoses just prior to or upon admission, but receive little information about their conditions. Similarly, family members often struggle to come to terms with new diagnoses and have many time-consuming questions to ask of staff.

They also may look for health information from less-than-reputable resources. Set up a magazine rack in the lobby with information and resources about common illnesses such as diabetes or stroke and/or add a page to your website with helpful links for families. This meets a genuine need, generates more knowledgeable conversations between families and staff, and helps to create more realistic expectations on the part of families regarding treatment and prognosis.

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Preventing difficult family situations


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