Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – New research from Cornell University shows an effective approach to reduce staff-family conflict in assisted living facilities in order to ensure the well-being of residents in care.
While forging partnerships between families and staff in assisted living is desirable, few programs exist that promote such positive relationships, said Karl Pillemer, professor in the Department of Human Development at Cornell University.
“Staff members and relatives of residents can sometimes experience communication problems and interpersonal conflict with one another leading to distress on the family side and an increase in burnout and the likelihood of leaving the job on the staff side,” Pillemer said. “In some cases, problems between families and staff can negatively affect the residents’ well-being.”
In response to the need for promoting positive relationships between staff and families, Pillemer and colleagues at the Cornell Institute for Translational Research on Aging developed the Partners in Caregiving in Assisted Living Program (PICAL).
The program was tested in assisted living centers across eight states where facilities were assigned either to receive the program or to a control group. PICAL involves two workshop series, one for assisted living staff and one for residents’ family members. The training, which takes about three hours, included advanced listening skills, communicating clearly and respectfully, and handling blame, criticism and conflict.
A total of 576 staff members and 295 family members from the control and treatment groups provided survey data on their relationship. Data were collected from the treatment group pre- and post-training to help show its impact.
The findings confirmed that family-staff relationships are sometimes challenging in assisted living, similar to nursing homes, and that an intervention can improve these relationships. Family members and staff reported they felt the program was highly effective and led to improved communication and improved relationships.
The study found the strongest effects on staff, who reported a significant reduction in conflicts with family members and lower rates of burnout over the study period. Similar patterns were found for families, although the results did not reach statistical significance.
The study was funded by a research grant from the American Seniors Housing Association and was published in “Seniors Housing & Care Journal,” where it won the Outstanding Research Paper of the Year award.
For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.
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Seniors Housing & Care Journal