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AGENCIES

Communicating with Families

Robert Rakocy

May 8, 2020

Agency Family Communication

Family communication has always been an important part of your agency. You may even have a Family Relations position in your office, dedicated to ensuring family members feel connected to your agency and trust your team. Keeping up with family communication is well worth the time and financial investment.

 

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, family communication has never been more crucial. 

 

Communication Considerations During the Pandemic 

 

Family members, like all of us, are feeling extra anxious and worried right now. With the news cycle giving startling statistics daily and reminding everyone that seniors with underlying health conditions are more at risk for coronavirus complications, it is easy to understand why family members are feeling like things are out of their control right now.

 

Increasing your family communication or switching your “normal” strategy to meet their changing needs can pay off in the long run. Here are a few ideas that may work for you.

 

Send Regular Email Updates

 

Now is the time to make general weekly emails to family members a priority. Keep your emails short and sweet, focusing on giving updates that will foster confidence in your care. Talk about how hard your caregivers are working and how they pay special attention to infection control best practices. Offer encouragement and a reminder that the family members can always contact you with questions or concerns. 

 

Respond to Communications Quickly 

 

While you don’t have to answer a family email or phone call within minutes, it is smart to try to respond as quickly as possible. Again, family members are feeling worried right now and it will go a long way when you make the effort to quickly respond.

 

Remember to Listen

 

Communication includes listening, and you may find that your role right now with some family members is simply being a sounding board. Remind yourself to meet family members with empathy and compassion, listening to what is really worrying them before coming up with a solution.

 

Encourage Caregivers to Communicate More

 

Family members are missing their loved ones! Consider encouraging your caregiver staff to initiate regular communication between their clients and their loved ones. If a client doesn’t have a smartphone or tablet in their home, consider scheduling time to visit the home with your agency devices to coordinate video calls with family members as well.

 

Spread Only Reliable Information

 

When you communicate, ensure you are only giving reliable information to family members. Use resources such as the Centers for Disease Control or your county’s health department in order to get accurate information.

 

Talk About Wins

 

Finally, make sure you are communicating hope and inspiration. Post a thank you note from a family member on social media. Praise a caregiver in your weekly email. People, including family members, are desperately searching for signs of hope right now and you can make that happen by talking about the good things as well as the scary things.

 

Take time today to review your current communication strategy and if it still fits your organization during the coronavirus pandemic. If it doesn’t, pivot and begin to make positive changes that will keep your family members in the loop more.

 

-Robert

 

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