Care home residents' experiences of social relationships with staff: the importance of the emotional aspect of caring and how it influences the quality of life of residents and staff is demonstrated by the findings of two studies discussed by Glenda Cook and Christine Brown-Wilson

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Date: Feb. 2010
From: Nursing Older People(Vol. 22, Issue 1)
Publisher: Royal College of Nursing Publishing Company (RCN)
Document Type: Article
Length: 4,379 words

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This article presents findings from a cross-study analysis of social engagement between older people and staff in care homes. The studies found that staff and the culture of the care home were influential in determining the quality and type of relationship between residents and staff. Although a number of factors limited the quality of social interactions between these groups, practices existed that overcame barriers to the development of positive social relationships.


Care homes, residents, social relationships


WHEN CONDUCTING studies concerning residents' experience of living in care homes, the authors observed that participants spoke m detail of their relationships with care home staff (Brown-Wilson 2007, Cook 2007). This prompted the authors to revisit their data to undertake a cross-study analysis of social engagement between older people and staff. This decision was also influenced by the knowledge that social relationships are a key determinant of self-perceived quality of life, life satisfaction, self-esteem, wellbeing, continued functioning and health in later life (Kane 2001, Kane et a1 2003, Murphy et a1 2004). The purpose of this article is to add to this literature by focusing on what can be learnt from residents' narratives of their experiences of interacting with staff and making suggestions for practice development.


The quality of interpersonal relationships in the care environment is an important factor in care delivery (Brechin 1998, de Veer and Kerkstra 2001). In the context of a care home, Grau et al (1995) found that for many residents their best or worst experiences revolved around their Interpersonal relationships with staff. Care staff also describe their relationships with residents as an important factor in their satisfaction with their work life (Kruzich 1995, Bowers et a12000, Bowers et a1 2001a, Eyers 2003, Luff 2008).

There is evidence in the literature to suggest that residents and staff develop meaningful social relationships with each other. Bowers et al (2001a) identified a group of residents who described their care in terms of the type of relationships that they developed with staff. They spoke positively of close relationships and the intimacy that they experienced when they shared personal information with staff as care was being provided. Jackson (1997) describes this interpersonal interaction as 'emotional caring', which includes acts that go beyond the routine work of caring and provides the foundation for friendship between residents and staff. Nursing assistants being uncaring or not responding to requests for help have been identified as among the worst experiences for residents (Grau et a1 1995).

While staff recognise the value of developing positive relationships with residents, they often feel constrained by lack of staff resources to meet the physical needs of residents and the undertaking of the 'bed and body work' of care (Eyers 2003). This can result in staff concentrating on the task of care, to enable them to get the job done (Bowers et al 2001b), and limiting the time that they socialise with residents. Opportunities to get to know residents on a personal level are reduced (Bowers et a1 2000). Such...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A219300066