‘We, not them and us?’ Views on the relationships and interactions between staff and relatives of older people permanently living in nursing homes

Authors

  • Annika Hertzberg RNT BSc MScN,

    1. Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Occupational Therapy and Elderly Care Research, Karolinska Institute and Red Cross College of Nursing and Health, Stockholm, Sweden,
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  • Sirkka-Liisa Ekman RN PhD

    1. Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Occupational Therapy and Elderly Care Research, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
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Annika Hertzberg Arnövägen 12, S-132 34 Saltsjö-Boo, Sweden. E-mail: annika.hertzberg@neurotec.ki.se

Abstract

‘We, not them and us?’ Views on the relationships and interactions between staff and relatives of older people permanently living in nursing homes

This study describes relatives’ and staffs’ experiences of each other in their relationships and interactions in connection with the care of old people with dementia living in nursing homes. The aim was to identify obstacles and promoters concerning these interactions. A qualitative method was used. Data were collected from 27 hours of observations of group discussions about relatives’ and staffs’ communication, interactions and experiences. Three different groups, with eight participants, relatives, staff and a group leader in each, met six times during a period of 3 months. Findings indicate that the experiences that relatives and staff have of each other are related to issues about influence, participation, trust and measures to avoid conflicts. These conclusions build on concrete descriptions about care, activities, competence, communication and visits given by research participants. Experiences of situations were sometimes contradictory between relatives and staff. This implies that the potential for cooperation between relatives and staff in care of the elderly is not fully utilized. Suggestions for enhancing the relationships between relatives and staff are: pre-planned informal, individual conversations between relatives and staff; development of ways to give regular two-way feedback about matters concerning the resident and the relationship between staff and relatives; giving staff credit for measures taken to facilitate relatives’ involvement in the nursing home care; measures to improve documentation about families’ involvement; and working together with minor practical tasks.

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