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A Surprising Way Nursing Homes Can Increase Family Engagement

In many Canadian nursing homes, family engagement is low. Industry professionals are aware of the difference that loving support networks can make. But what’s the best way to encourage family members to get involved?

Caring relatives may find it difficult to visit residents for various reasons. Some of the most common include geographical distance and overwhelming outside responsibilities.

It might be hundreds or even thousands of kilometres that get in the way. It might be a packed schedule full of work and other family commitments. Very often, the result is too little time together. This separation can be heartbreaking for both residents, and the loved ones who’d like to visit them more often.

Nursing home professionals want their residents to be happy. If you’re a facility operator, manager, or frontline staff member, you’re aware that the people you help are often happiest when they see their loved ones – face-to-face.

There are, of course, other benefits to family involvement. Lonely residents are more likely to overuse nurse call bells, which can increase staff burnout and disrupt other residents. Not only that, but care is always better when family members provide staff with input and advice.

There are several ways of improving family engagement. One of the most effective and cost-efficient methods is also one of the most surprising.

Did you know that the right nursing home security system can actually bring residents and their family members together? It may sound strange, but it’s true. Read on to learn more.

Why Family Engagement Matters

It’s a common misconception that you can’t feel lonely when you’re surrounded by other people. Consider this: 18% of older adults live alone – but 43% feel lonely.

All too often, people in nursing homes suffer from loneliness, despite the presence of fellow residents and staff members. These feelings can have a serious negative impact on health and wellbeing.

Long term care professionals have always been aware that loneliness can contribute to mental and physical decline. If you work in a nursing home, you’ve seen it firsthand. But now, the general public is becoming aware, too.

Recent articles in The Globe and Mail and Time reveal just how damaging loneliness can be. Here’s a fact: researchers have found that your risk of death increases by 26% if you feel lonely.

In nursing homes, staff want to help those who are lonely. But they’re often juggling too many responsibilities to devote the time they’d like to individual residents. And in some cases, their attempts are flat-out refused.

It’s understandable: people who live in nursing homes often crave comfort. But many want to receive it from loved ones, the people they’ve cared for and received care from throughout their lives.

On the other end of the spectrum, residents who don’t see family members may look for excessive attention from nurses. Continuous requests for assistance from the same resident can distract staff, reducing quality of care for others.

Of course, family engagement should go beyond personal contact with residents. Nursing home staff and management should also communicate well with the relatives of those they care for.

One study suggests that positive interactions between family members and staff on dementia units has serious benefits – for all involved. These benefits may include reduced conflict, improved resident behaviour, and even lessened nurse burnout.

Bringing Families Together – When It Matters Most

Imagine this: you work at a nursing home in Ottawa. One of your residents has been on dialysis for two years. He isn’t necessarily in the final stage of life, but his condition isn’t improving. He’s also showing signs of depression.

Lately, this resident has been using his nurse call bell excessively. He’s been calling staff members in situations that aren’t urgent – like when he can’t reach the t.v. remote.

He seems lonely. He has two daughters, whom he often talks about. You believe that seeing their faces could bring him a lot of joy, and they’ve always shown interest in his care. But one of them lives in Vancouver and the other lives in New York.

If you play a role in delivering nursing home care, you’ve probably observed situations like this one. They can be painful for everyone involved – including family members.

We’ve all heard the negative stereotypes. We’ve heard stories about adult children who leave parents in long term care and never look back. But the reality is, many residents have very loving families. Many studies have shown that a large percentage of nursing home residents receive regular or semi-regular visitors.

But these visits can taper off, and family members may provide less input over time. It may be a matter of distance or intense outside responsibilities. But sometimes, even loved ones who care deeply can’t be there to support a relative in person.

Luckily, there are steps nursing homes can take to make it simple for residents and their relatives to connect.

A (Very) Unexpected Solution

For any well-run nursing home, the comfort and wellbeing of residents is critical. And so is their security.

At one point or another, every nursing home professional has worried that someone they provide care for will wander or fall. The peace of mind that comes with knowing your residents are safe and secure is priceless.

But did you know that the right security system can do more than keep residents safe?

Sometimes, in potential emergency situations, staff members need actionable intelligence – in real time. They need to hear or see what’s going on, and they need to talk to residents in other parts of their facility.

For this reason, the best security systems include communication technology. This technology allows staff to prioritize responses and take immediate action in emergencies.

But why should this technology only serve one purpose?

What if trusted family members want to know immediately if a relative falls? What if they want the peace of mind of knowing they can check in at any time? And shouldn’t residents be able to connect with loved ones when they’re feeling upset or lonely?

When the right security system and the right communication system is combined, the possibilities are endless. Advanced videoconferencing technology and an intuitive, easy-to-use interface are key.

Family members can stay informed about the health and safety of their loved ones. Resident can connect face-to-face with the people they love to receive the emotional support they need. And when necessary, staff members can locate a resident’s family members and communicate with them instantly.

The right security system will keep residents safe. At the same time, it will make nursing homes more accessible. It will make connecting the people within them to their loved ones easier than ever – even from a distance.

More Connected – and Secure

Many people assume that nursing homes are stuck in the past – but their wrong. The technologies built for long term care environments is becoming more efficient and economical. But even more importantly, they’re strengthening relationships that are based on caring.

The evolution of security systems in nursing homes continues. And now, more than ever, it’s focused on resident quality of life.

Feature image courtesy of Jillian

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