Relationships matter: What we know about meaningful relationships in long-term care facilities

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Delaney, Kaitlyn
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Meaningful relationships in long-term care (LTC) are considered to be an important part of the LTC experience. Utilizing a person-centred care (PCC) framework, this research explores meaningful relationships among three dyads in LTC: residents and residents, residents and staff members, and staff members and family members, including analysis of those residents with dementia. To gain insight into the contributors and barriers to developing meaningful relationships, I conducted a secondary data analysis of resident interviews, as well as staff and family focus group data from the Care and Construction study using a grounded theory approach. The 2012 Care and Construction project examined the impact of different models of care on resident quality of life (QOL) in nursing homes (Nova Scotia Centre on Aging, 2015a). Three themes – communication, staffing and activities emerged from the analysis. Opportunities for consistent communication between residents, staff, and family that provide a mutual feeling of “family” was revealed as a contributor to the development of meaningful relationships. Staffing within the LTC facility was identified as a barrier, such that being short-staffed and staff rotation, prohibits the ability to spend quality time together and opportunities to become “friends”, rather than remain in a patient /caretaker relationship. Opportunities to participate in activities that encourage socialization was evident as contributing to meaningful relationships among and between residents, staff, and family. Learnings from the findings produced implications for policy, practice, and education to improve the QOL of LTC residents. The LTC sector would benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of the way positive relationships improve QOL for residents. Educational workshops that encourage positive communication through the guidance of policies will be beneficial. In addition, having sufficient staffing ratio is critical, therefore a staffing ratio policy is fundamental to make change. Similarly, education on the importance of PCC may increase opportunities for broader understanding and enable positive ways forward. It is crucial that individuals understand the positive benefits to PCC. Finally, building designs that include common spaces for communication and activities to take place, as well as adequate options for activities would strengthen the opportunities to develop relationships in LTC, which is important for relationship development
Long-term care, meaningfull relationships, person-centred care