Caregiver Blog: How to Maintain Healthy Relationships with Patients’ Families

Article Categories: Caregiver Corner & Caregiver Tips and Tricks

Families move their loved ones to care facilities and homes for one reason: peace of mind knowing their relative will get the quality care that they can’t adequately provide.

Expectations are high. Families need to see that the healthcare team is competent and knows what they’re doing. They need to feel the sincerity in every interaction. And this is understandable.

Being a caregiver is challenging not only because of the physical and emotional demands of patient care, but also because caregivers interact with family members as well. And because family members are usually stressed or anxious about their loved one's health issues, they can become difficult, overcritical, and tend to micromanage everything.

To maintain a healthy relationship with a patient’s family, first, fix your mindset. You have to recognize their innate need to be reassured their sick loved one is safe and cared for, and your compassionate approach sets the stage for other ways to make this possible.

To build trust, the family needs to hear reassuring words and see consistent quality care. When a family feels their loved ones are in good hands, they tend to relax and stop examining every detail of every care procedure. The questions every family member has in mind is, "Can I be confident that staff will care for my loved one the right way? Can I let my worries go and trust they'll do the best for my relative?"

Another way to establish a successful relationship with the family is to have honest and open communication. One way to do this is to avoid phrasing comments as your opinion. Instead, tell them your observations. Don’t say, “I think your mother is having a hard time adjusting here.” Try, “Your mother doesn’t finish her meals and keeps saying she wants to go back home.” Also, avoid sugarcoating your words to make them feel better. Acknowledge that you understand and are attentive to their concerns as well.

To interact with a patient’s family better, it is also important to treat them with respect. Be mindful of your choice of words and tone of voice. Never argue, and hear them out each time.

Be culturally sensitive, too. Sickness and disability know no religion or race, and you will often care for patients with beliefs different than yours. Their family will see any disregard for their culture on your part as a sign of disrespect and incompetence. This isn’t just rude, it can spark mistrust and subsequent confrontation.

Always knock before entering a patient’s room, especially if family members are present. Ask permission from the patient first before disturbing the bonding moments with their visiting loved ones.

Lastly, be sincere in your desire to help. You may be tired and pressed for time, busy in your routine, and tend to breeze through your duties without putting your heart into it. Patients and their families feel this disconnect and will be uncomfortable around you. They will be more demanding, too. Showing genuine concern about their loved one's condition creates meaningful connections with their family.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with a patient's next of kin is very important in achieving patient goals since they are a big influence on the patient, the center of the healthcare team. Be compassionate, respectful, and sincere. Establish trust and open communication lines, and the patient’s family will cooperate with you and return the respect.


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