Not so long ago, the patient was the only one affected if he or she didn’t adhere to the post-acute care plan. Today, everyone suffers. Hospitals’ reimbursement rates decline if the re-hospitalization rate rises. When post-acute care facilities can’t deliver positive outcomes consistently, those facilities may experience a decrease in referrals from local hospitals.
Although families have always been informally involved in care plans, it makes sense to officially add them to the team. After all, family members have the most knowledge about the patients’ personalities and lifestyles and the most influence. Not sure how much input families should have in developing post-acute care plans? Take a look at several ways family members can help shape plans.
What is the Ideal Role for Family Members?
Family members can help facilitate a patient’s recovery when they take on these roles during post-acute care planning.
PatientConsultant: Patient-centered care empowers patients to make decisions about their care, but sometimes, evaluating the various treatment recommendations can be overwhelming. Family members can research various options and help the patient consider the benefits and drawbacks of each choice.
Communicator: Family members often offer important information about limitations, challenges, and cultural barriers that the post-acute care facility team may not have considered. When a patient can’t communicate effectively, family members can provide insight on the person’s preferences.
ConflictResolutionManager: Family members work together with the patient and staff members to find solutions to problems or concerns.
Facilitator: Family members can make the post-acute care experience less stressful for the patient by offering to fill prescriptions, drive the patient to and from outpatient therapy sessions, obtain test results, pay bills, care for pets, or work with the insurance company.
EmotionalSupportProvider: Family members not only help calm upset or fearful patients, but also encourage them when they’re not sure if they’re up to the demands of rehab.
Since family-centered care is a relatively new approach, many families may have never been actively involved in care planning and may need a little coaching and assistance initially. Teaching families the basics of the COPE approach (Creativity, Optimism, Planning, Expert Information) can make the decision and problem-solving process less daunting.
What If Family Members Become Too Involved?
Family members can occasionally become a little too enthusiastic about their roles and try to take over the care planning process. In some cases, they may even attempt to force their relative to choose a particular treatment option. It’s important for family members to understand that although they have a voice in the care plan, their role is to support the patient, not make decisions for him or her. A gentle reminder that creating a care plan is a team activity can be helpful.
Sometimes problems occur if family members make assumptions because they don’t understand diagnosis or treatment options. Providing information written in simple, jargon-free language and asking open-ended questions can often clear up misunderstandings.
It may be helpful for multiple family members to be involved in care planning, particularly if the members will fulfill very different roles. Unfortunately, sometimes too many family members want to become involved. When staff members must spend valuable time addressing the same concerns over and over again, they aren’t free to focus on patient care. Asking the group to select one or two members to represent the entire group during planning sessions can be helpful.
Involving patients and their families in post-acute care planning is an excellent way to improve patient outcomes and increase patient and family engagement. Although it will take a little time to adjust to the new process, family-centered care offers important benefits for post-acute care facilities.