Has anyone in long-term care ever heard the title phrase being shouted? I know, I know, everyone on the Interdisciplinary Team looks forward to Care Conference meetings..NOT. This is not a shocking statement to most in the industry, but Care Conferences are typically dreaded by most IDT members. Maybe 'dreaded' is too strong, but some staff come close to feeling that way. They anticipate a family's arrival with "the list" full of concerns spanning 3 months that hasn't been shared before, the resident who will spend the meeting complaining about the food, the family that doesn't get along with each other, the family that has questions about their pharmacy bill, the resident who has "lost" all their clothing, and the family that doesn't understand why their resident isn't receiving therapy 7 days/week for the rest of their lives. And unfortunately, in too many facilities, the Interdisciplinary "Team" has been reduced to a single person (often Social Service) because other departments were pulled out for another situation or "too busy" to attend. By the end of the Care Conference meeting, the staff member has listened to concerns that they aren't able to resolve themselves and heard questions that they don't have the answers to. And they tell the resident/family that the concerns/questions will be passed along to the appropriate department and someone will get in touch. Sound familiar?
It doesn't have to be like that! Concerns need to be shared with the proper departments directly and in a timely manner, not saved up for a quarterly meeting. Help those with concerns realize it. Remind residents and families of the potential benefits of timely communication and why it's so crucial. If you know your population well, identify those who would benefit from weekly contact with the Business Office, Maintenance, Dietary, Laundry, etc. For someone focused on a particular department, a 15-minute visit/phone call once per week can be a valuable asset. When a legitimate system-wide problem is identified, consider enlisting an appropriate resident or family member to help with resolution. People need to have a purpose and feel useful - offer a project. The residents and families are living in the facility every day, observing what works and what doesn't. A win-win situation can happen when they are involved.
Why can't the Care Conferences be used as a tool to continue learning more about who the resident is now and who they have been throughout their lives? It can, and from my viewpoint, it should be. Set the tone, educate your residents and families, and establish open/timely communication at admission. If your facility experiences any of the examples in the first paragraph, make your Care Conference process an area of opportunity for 2013. Demonstrate to the families/residents that you consider Care Conference information important by committing to the entire IDT's attendance at the meetings. Utilize the time during the meetings to really listen to your residents and families while they share history about what has been important to them. What has made them who they are? What is their favorite memory? What are their preferences for a daily routine? Using those bits of information to establish their plans of care will improve their quality of life. Ensuring that the direct caregivers have that information will improve quality of care. Make Care Conferences a meeting that IDT members look forward to attending. Need assistance moving forward with your Care Conference process? Contact SHC and we'll schedule a visit to help your facility continue improving Quality of Life services.