What staff members need to know about family caregivers

Caregivers and provider talking.

Family members and friends who are responsible for looking after and helping their loved ones are an extremely valuable part of the care team for Good Samaritan Society residents living in long-term care. These individuals (and groups) regularly contribute to the overall wellbeing and fulfillment of their loved ones.

Their role is crucial – and knowing how to integrate their contributions will help improve the quality of care for residents while also supporting them.

Empower caregivers to help your team

The role of Society staff members is to communicate effectively with family caregivers so we can give them the resources they need to feel empowered in their roles.

For example, staff members can let a family caregiver know that their loved one has an upcoming appointment and that they are welcome to provide the transportation. This is a great way for the caregiver to support their loved one and spend quality time with them.

Other ways staff members can empower family caregivers is by giving them other ways to help, such as by bringing snacks and special meals to the center, buying toiletries and other items the resident may want and need, and joining them for activities and other events.

Family caregivers also play a crucial role by helping their loved ones understand their care plan. Many residents struggle to remember every detail and instruction given to them by our staff, so having a family member or caregiver present at these meetings ensures instructions are being heard and properly implemented.

Our top priority is to care for the needs of the resident. If there are concerns that some needs aren’t being met by the family caregiver, a meeting may need to be set up between our staff, the resident and the caregiver to discuss care quality and what can be done for the resident going forward.

Decide when family caregivers should be a part of a conversation

While it can be greatly beneficial to have family caregivers participate in conversations about a resident’s care, not every conversation has to include them. Unless there are legal documents or directives in place (like a power of attorney), staff members need to remember that the resident is the one in charge of their own care decisions.

The first step in establishing a family caregiver’s relationship to the resident and their medical decisions should involve a one-on-one discussion with the resident. Ask them what they’d like the family caregiver to do for them and when they would like them to be there.

This is particularly important to keep in mind if the caregivers want to be very involved with their loved one’s care. Having them present at every meeting may make it difficult to discuss sensitive and personal health matters with the client.

If this is the case, some clear boundaries may need to be set to give the resident privacy. It may also be good to ask the caregiver to step out of the room for a portion of each meeting so the client can share concerns with staff members directly in a one-on-one environment. Communication is key in these scenarios.

Even if family caregivers have control over care decisions, it’s important to remember they are not the only ones instructions should be given to. It’s important to direct face-to-face remarks to both the resident and the family caregiver so both feel heard and cared for.

Know when to provide family caregivers with support 

Caring for a loved one can be physically, emotionally and financially draining. They sacrifice a lot to help the people they love, and many of them have health and wellbeing problems of their own.

It is our duty as staff members to check on caregivers and to help them get the support they need. If their needs aren’t being met, many health and safety concerns can begin to develop for both them and the resident they are helping.

When you are working with a family caregiver, it’s a good idea to ask them questions about how they are feeling about their role. Many times, concerns about providing care will come up, and at that point a discussion can be had about what could be done to make it easier on them, which may or may not include changing the level of care for the resident.

Remember to support caregivers on their journey

The most important principle to remember when working with caregivers is that they are an important part of the team and need to be cared for, too. Visit our caregiver support or resources pages for more information about how we care for our residents and their family caregivers.

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