Transitions in senior care: Getting family informed and involved

Senior care transition

When a new resident moves into a senior care home, staff are not just welcoming the resident, they are also welcoming their family into the care community. Not only do resident families help their loved one choose the right facility, they play a vital role in decision-making and overall care of the resident.

Establishing clear communication channels prior to the resident even moving in is a vital step in building a strong and collaborative relationship with all involved parties. 

Strong lines of communication are also valuable through other transitions in senior care residents may experience. Whether it’s moving in, moving-out, or just staying for a short period of time, the more information you can provide proactively to a resident and their family, the easier the transition will be. 

Why resident family relationships are important

The decision to move into a senior care home is a big one. Administrators and staff can reinforce the decision as a positive one, while also getting the relationship off on the right foot by first establishing trust.

Building on and maintaining that trust is a key element in making sure everyone is comfortable with the quality of care being delivered, and that as a part of the larger care team, resident family members have an important role in ensuring that the resident’s needs are properly met.

Resident families often spend between 4 and 9 hours a week overseeing, arranging, and providing care and often help their loved one in care with daily tasks.

When an open and collaborative relationship exists, resident family members are confident enough to raise concerns over care. 

During the pandemic, many senior care facilities had to change how, and when, they communicated with their care community. For many homes, this actually meant increased communication, but most of it was carried out digitally. This shift has been made permanent by many and has led to a more digitized experience – often starting before a resident even moves in.

So how does digitized communication increase trust and communication? Here are a few ways.

Transition: The move-in

Moving is stressful. There is a lot to consider and keep track of, not to mention the emotional impacts involved in transitions. So how can senior care facilities help smooth the process? By starting to open communication channels prior to move-in.

A great first message to the resident and their family:

  • Is welcoming! Set the stage with your tone – being warm and friendly with your words reassures.
  • Remind them of what happens on move-in day and how your staff can help.
  • Remind them of all the services available to residents and their families.
  • Provide the name and contact information of a staff member should the resident family have any comments, questions or suggestions.

If your facility is sending email outreach, attaching a standard welcome/move-in brochure or info packet is also a great way to supplement a more personalized message. 

Transition: Move out

Not all stays in senior care facilities are long-term. Some residents stay after a surgery, illness or injury to take advantage of services and treatments on-site such as occupational, speech, and physical therapies. Trained staff available around the clock can also help speed the recovery process. 

Once the resident returns home, however, following up is a vital piece of the care transition process. The early post-discharge period is a vulnerable time for older patients with complex care requirements, and when they do return home, family and friends are the de facto informal caregivers.

In a recent study of the discharge process of short-term residents at skilled nursing facilities, “80% said they received and understood discharge instructions, yet still experienced gaps in preparation and care coordination — often leading to worse outcomes for frail residents.” 

Adding to the frustration? Over 40% of those surveyed said they didn’t receive a follow-up call after discharge, adding stress to both the resident and their caregivers.

A simple, automated email, or series of emails, can solve the issue and benefit all parties. Remind the former resident that you care about their progress and of the service still available to them as an outpatient. 

Again, providing the name and contact information of a staff member maintains trust and keeps communication open.  

Transition: The return

Transitioning from a hospital to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) then back home can be a lot to handle after a surgery or illness. Now, imagine having to return to the hospital shortly after being discharged from a SNF. It means something went wrong and a patient’s recovery has been prolonged.

To help combat that return to hospital within the first 30 days of discharge (and incur fines from CMS), “It’s critical for the SNF staff to provide guidance to any patient going home so they understand things like changes in medications from those taken before hospitalization or prescribed upon hospital discharge, as well as needs for further therapy. To ensure continuity of care, they should also help or at least encourage the patient or caregiver to set up a follow-up appointment with the patient’s primary care provider.”

Alexia Torke, M.D, IU Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute 

While this type of follow-up can seem like an added burden to already overworked and short-staffed senior care homes, a simple automated email that integrates with your calendar can simplify and streamline the process while ensuring continuity of care. 

It doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple hello and a reminder that they can return to the care facility should the need arise shows your support throughout their recovery. 

Transition: Making it easy

Staff who work in senior care facilities face unique communication challenges in caring for the aging population as they often have to communicate with residents, their families, and clinical staff at other healthcare facilities. 

These challenges call for strategies that promote respect and empathy while communicating vital information in a direct and succinct manner. The effective continuity of care is the top priority.

At the end of the day, any messages and communications sent during a time of transition should accomplish one of the following:

  • Family members may feel guilt about moving their loved one into a facility, communication can ease that burden,
  • Encourage family involvement through technology and ongoing communication,
  • Set expectations with resident family members about the kind of care their loved one will receive by communicating staff workloads. 

Not sure where to get started with messaging your resident family members for these events? We’ve got you covered! See examples in our Template Library

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