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 ‘Caring Attitudes’ Of Staff Vital To Residents, Families, Staff, Study Finds

​Residents, families, and even frontline workers are more satisfied when long term care employees exhibit “caring attitudes,” Planetree researchers have learned from focus groups.

Planetree has convened 83 focus groups since 2012, with 569 residents, family members, or frontline staffers chiming in. The results showed that all groups prized a sense of compassion from caretakers—that it’s not just enough to care for a resident, it’s vital that they show they care about the resident.

Officials at Planetree released the results of their findings earlier this week. For Planetree’s Director of Quality, Research, and Evaluation Michael Lepore, though, the most surprising thing is how little things have changed in the past two decades.

“The top priority expressed 25 years ago and expressed today and will probably be expressed 50 years from now is that people care about the people they’re taking care of,” he says. “It seems so simple. To see the consistency of themes, year after year, site after site, is really amazing.”

Planetree, a nonprofit group that advocates for, and helps health care companies shift to, person-centered care models, has been convening focus groups and conducting research in health care for years. But this week’s findings represent the first time that the nonprofit group has focused on long term care.

Family members and staff also agreed that “compassionate and close relationships … between residents and staff” is valuable, that families and residents thought that cleanliness was important, and that “access to the outdoors is appreciated,” according to Planetree’s findings.

But residents are also worried about how long term care centers pay attention to their “care preferences” and honor “residents’ choices and privacy,” the focus groups reported back.

“Part of the aim of doing this is to really bring in the voices of long term care—primarily the residents, but also their family members, and the frontline staff whose voices often aren’t heard,” Lepore says.

In convening the focus groups, Planetree took care to make sure that the rooms had no supervisors, and researchers worked hard to ask open-ended questions of participants, Lepore says. It’s “a bottom-up, or inside-out, approach to performance improvement,” he says.

With the results of the focus groups in hand now, Planetree is convening a steering committee of international experts and tasking others with reviewing the literature on person-centered care. The group is hoping to identify key areas for applied research and will hand out up to $50,000 in matching grant dollars in the year ahead, Lepore says.

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