Supporting Family Involvement in Long-Term Residential Care: Promising Practices for Relational Care

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Abstract

Family members and friends provide significant support for older relatives in long-term residential care (LTRC). Yet, they occupy ambiguous positions in these settings, and their relationships with LTRC staff can involve conflicts and challenges. Based on an ethnographic project carried out in North America and Europe, this article identifies practices that promote meaningful family participation in care home life. We consider instances of rewarding family involvement upon admission to LTRC, throughout the time a relative is living in a care home, and during the final stages of life. Furthermore, we identify working conditions needed to support the well-being of family/friend carers as well as residents and staff. These include greater appreciation of relational care work, time for effective communication, teamwork, and appropriate, inclusive physical spaces. Findings make visible the importance of relational care and have implications for improving living and working conditions in LTRC.

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