Caregiver/resident relationships: surrogate family bonds and surrogate grieving in a skilled nursing facility*


  • Isabel Sumaya-Smith BA

    Corresponding author
    1. Senior Research Assistant, Department of Psychology, and MSc Student, California State University, Bakersfield, California, USA
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  • *

    Paper presented at the meeting of the Western Psychological Association in Kona, Hawaii, 30 April 1994

Isabel Sumaya-Smith, c/o Dr B Rienzi, Department of Psychology California State University-Bakersfield, 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, CA 93311-1099, USA


The study investigated the occurrence of surrogate family bonds and surrogate grieving by staff members (n= 25) at a rural skilled nursing facility Staff members were educated on both concepts then given a structured interview to test for occurrence and identification with these concepts Public opinion, as well as the literature, describes the caregiver/resident relationship as ahistorical, lacking close emotional bonds However, staff members are often observed to report close emotional bonds and grieving over the death of residents This study tested the hypotheses that self-reported caregiver surrogate family bonds and self-reported caregiver surrogate grieving would exist at a significantly higher rate than the literature would predict Chi-square analysis supported the hypothesis for surrogate family bonds, χ2 (1, n= 25) = 17 64, P < 0 001 Surrogate family bonds were found to occur in 92% of the present sample However, surrogate grieving was not supported and was found to occur in only 52% of the sample