Family members essential to care in nursing homes, study says

Limiting or prohibiting visitors at nursing homes caused life-changing challenges for nursing home residents and their loved ones, according to University at Buffalo (N.Y.) researchers.

The researchers found family members wanted to actively participate in their loved ones' lives during the pandemic but were not allowed to, which affected nursing home residents' care, according to an Oct. 28 article on the university's website.

"Family members expressed concern not only for residents' physical health, but for their emotional comfort and overall well-being as well,” principal investigator Yu-Ping Chang, PhD, RN, professor and senior associate dean in the school of nursing, said in the article.

The study, published in SAGE Journals, found family members experienced increased stress, frustration and anxiety when they had to rely solely on nursing home staff to take care of their loved ones, though many were fully capable of meeting residents' needs. Although many found creative ways to communicate, resident routines and resources were disrupted by policies that did not allow visitors.

Pandemic stress also magnified existing family relationship dynamics, both positive and negative, according to the report.

"In the future, visiting policies should incorporate family members as essential to the holistic care of residents in a safe, feasible way," Dr. Chang concluded.

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