Nursing Home Bond Between Staff and Patients

Why has this issue grabbed the news?

An increasing proportion of the population will spend their final years in a nursing home or a residential home.   There has been a dramatic increase in the need for these services throughout the 21st century, as the number of people living to at least 85 years of age continues to rise.  Coupled with this, newspapers are rife with stories of staff shortages in residential and nursing home facilities, which have been held up as a key contributor to reports of abuse in such institutions (http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2013/10/24/safeguarding-in-care-homes-survey).

Why is bonding between patients and nursing or residential staff important?

A personalised approach to care holds many benefits – not only for the patient, but also for their relatives and the staff that care for them.  Establishing familiarity, seeing the same faces every day, reduces anxiety.  This can be particularly important for those struggling with the deterioration of memory.  A trusting relationship is comforting to relatives and can assist with compliance to medication and routines.  By getting to know a patient, staff can tailor activities to suit them – discovering their talents and interests and understand their history and the things that are important to them.  The nursing home is a home after all.

A listening ear can be a comfort in times of distress and for those who may not receive regular visitors.  According to a recent report for the Nursing Times (http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-zones/end-of-life-and-palliative-care/end-of-life-care-in-nursing-and-care-homes/5053468.article), supportive patient-staff relationships are particularly important for talking about and preparing for the end of life.

How can we ensure that bonds are established between patients and those professionals that care for them?

The above report involved interviews with a wide range of staff and patients in 2013.  Key conclusions included the need, first of all, to improve staffing levels to allow staff to spend more time with individual patients.  Another recommendation is for improved training in terms of fostering sensitivity and respect and in delivering a more personalised service.  A specific suggestion was the offering of professional emotional support for staff to deal with and prepare for the ending of care relationships.   However, as with any healthcare service, staff face a constant battle between budget cuts and effective service delivery.

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