Greater availability of communication between family caregivers and direct care professionals in residential care settings was associated with fewer depressive symptoms and lower negative affect in residents, according to a new research brief published by the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston.
The research study, described in Quality of Communication with Direct Care Professionals in Residential Care Settings: The Association Between Family Caregiver Perceptions and Resident Mental Health, was funded by the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation.
Family caregivers are important contributors to the quality of care older adults receive and the quality of life they experience while living in nursing homes and assisted living communities, according to the research brief.
However, barriers within organizational systems can impede the ability of direct care professionals to establish effective and consistent lines of communication with family members. These communication challenges can create an information gap that makes it more difficult for providers of aging services to deliver optimal care in residential long-term services and supports (LTSS) settings.
Researchers Francesca Falzarano of Weill Cornell Medicine, Verena Cimarolli of the LTSS Center, and Karen Siedlecki of Fordham University studied communication in residential care settings by analyzing the datasets of two, linked, population-based surveys.
The research team sought to explore and characterize how family caregivers perceive their communication with direct care professionals and how those perceptions influence residents’ mental health. The team also examined how relationships between family members and direct care professionals in nursing homes may differ from similar relationships in assisted living communities.
Key findings from the study fell into three categories:
Suboptimal Communication Quality: Overall, family caregivers perceived as suboptimal the frequency, availability, and helpfulness of their communication with direct care professionals regarding a care recipient’s care and condition.
Benefits Associated with Communication Availability: Greater availability of communication between family caregivers and direct care professionals in LTSS settings was associated with fewer depressive symptoms and lower negative affect in residents.
Setting Comparisons: High-quality communication was found to be a stronger predictor of fewer depressive symptoms among residents in assisted living communities, compared to residents in nursing homes.