Family and staff perceptions of the role of families in nursing homes
Admission to a nursing home is generally regarded as the termination of family care and the commencement of institutional care. Research suggests that following placement families are often expected to relinquish their dependent older relative to the bureaucracy of the institution. The aim of this study was to investigate family and nursing home staff perceptions of the role of families caring for residents in nursing homes. A convenience sample of 44 family carers and 78 nursing home staff completed questionnaires, and interviews were conducted with 10 family carers and 10 nursing home staff. The results suggest that family carers perceived themselves to have a greater role in caring for relatives than that perceived by the nursing home staff. Either families overestimated their involvement, or staff underestimated family involvement in caring for residents in nursing homes. Families were mostly satisfied with their role and with the care provided in nursing homes. They perceived nurses as providers of technical care and they perceived themselves as having an important role in providing social and emotional care. Families trusted the clinical judgement of the staff but the staff were reluctant to trust family carers, especially in situations where care involved an element of risk. Family roles were limited by members’ own ability to care and the dependency of the resident, while professional responsibility and accountability discouraged nurses from sharing some caring roles. The results indicate that families in this study were more willing to help in nursing home care and were perhaps under-valued as a resource within the nursing home setting.