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Stronger together: The importance of family connections

Mother’s Day has just passed in the UK, bringing to mind the importance of parents, families and celebrating and supporting those whom we love. For people living in residential care, having regular contact with those they love can be a lifeline. It can boost both mental and physical health, as well as provide confidence and support when needed. Strong family connections help residents feel like they are still a key part of their family and social network, even if they are not living in the same community any more.

Care Vision believes strongly in keeping families and residents connected as much as possible. Thanks to advances in technology and electronic communications, there are more avenues and opportunities for meaningful connection between care home residents and their friends and family than ever before. Here are some ways in which care homes can help families stay connected and involved at every stage in a resident’s time living in a care setting.

Involvement from the start

Moving house at any stage of life is a difficult and complex matter, often tied up with hard emotional feelings and extra mental stresses. Moving into a care home is no different – plus it can come with additional feelings around loss of independence, concerns over health conditions and other fears for the future. Residents who have their family involved from the beginning – viewing and choosing care homes, talking to staff, providing support with admission paperwork and helping arrange funding – will often find the transition a lot easier to manage that having to do everything alone.

Using a digital system like Care Vision to capture medical history, personal preferences, care plan priorities and other key information can make life even easier for new residents and families alike.

Helping family members advocate

Family members and friends can be invaluable for residents who need support to help them advocate for what they need and want to happen to them. Care homes that work closely with family members to understand residents’ feelings, fears and requirements will often get to the heart of any concerns faster. People often find it easier to open up to those they love, who can then communicate what they need to care home staff on their half. The same goes for applying for funding, dealing with social service involvement and helping residents get the external medical treatments they need.

Supporting visits in person

A visit from a loved one can brighten anyone’s day. However, for those in residential care, it can be a real highlight. A change in routine, lively conversation, social contact and news from ‘outside’ can all help someone feel happier, engage in the world around them and enjoy a boost of energy and self-esteem. Care home managers can make their settings a friendly, welcoming environment by providing refreshments, ensuring residents receiving visitors can do so in comfortable, private rooms and by planning plenty of events that family members and friends can attend throughout the year.

Digital management software can also help with electronic visitor book tools, staff planning to ensure there are enough carers around to support in-person visits and keeping contact details updated within the resident’s digital personal records file.

Supporting remote contact

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all learnt how to re-establish connecting remotely using such technology as video calling, emails, phone calls and texts. Even the gentle art of letter writing came back into play as people found new ways to keep in touch. Some family members and friends will live far away from the person living in the care home – even in a different country.

Care home managers can help keep these connections strong by providing ways for families to keep in touch with each other. Computers, tablets, smart phones and even the old-fashioned landline phone can all be used to help people stay in contact. Another idea is to hold regular letter writing sessions for people to write to their nearest and dearest on good quality notepaper over an afternoon cup of tea.

Feedback and collaboration

As a species, we work better when we work together. Families should be encouraged to provide feedback about their experiences of visiting and talking to their loved one in a care home. Having trusted and loving family members and friends involved in residents’ care means that decisions can be made about their future that are more informed, compassion-centred and made for the best of the person in question.

Often, too, family members can see both good and concerning things about a care home during visits that are less obvious to those who live there, or work there full time. A ‘fresh pair of eyes’ can be helpful when working on ways to improve care provision, or to offer external confirmation that things are being done the right way for the benefit of all.

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