Greater family involvement in care improves resident outcomes but increases guilt, researchers find

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Programs to boost family involvement in caregiving can improve quality of life for long-term care residents and decrease the burden on staff, but might also increase family members' feelings of guilt, researchers have found.

A team from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Program on Aging, Disability and Long-Term Care analyzed how a program called “Families Matter in Long-Term Care” worked at 24 long-term care sites. Through this program, staff and family members participated in workshops related to how family can be involved in care, and devised more than 300 “service plans” to help residents “do things, get around, look good, or eat well.” These plans included giving residents manicures and taking them for drives.

The program reduced the rate of staff burnout, and workers reported improved partnerships with families, according to the researchers. Results also indicated improved quality of life for residents and decreased burden on families.

However, families reported increased feelings of “guilt and conflict,” the researchers reported. This could be because the program identified actions family members could reasonably take, which led them to reflect on whether they could be doing more for their loved one, the UNC team surmised.

The researchers discovered another potential downside to the program: an increased likelihood of conflict between staff and family members. However, the evidence indicates that staff ultimately benefit from family involvement, the paper states.

“Families Matter in Long-Term Care; Results of a Group-Randomized Trial” won the Prudential Real Estate Investors Outstanding Research Paper award, and appears in the 2013 edition of the Seniors Housing & Care Journal, published by the National Investors Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry and Mather LifeWays.

Click here to access the journal, released this month.