Contact with Relatives of Residents

Keeping in touch with relatives of residents in care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic?

What methods have you come up with to stay in close contact with relatives during COVID 19?  Phone calls, emails, face time? 

Last week the Relatives and Resident Association and the National Care Forum released a joint statement setting out shared expectations for care providers. The purpose is to have open, transparent, and regular communications with families of care home residents during COVID 19. The joint statement is endorsed by the Care Provider Alliance and the Care Quality Commission.

All agencies involved in care are truly recognising the impact of COVID in care settings, how hard all involved are working, and how busy you are all. Family members are very concerned about their loved ones especially as they cannot visit. Have you considered the best methods for communicating with families? This partly depends on the nature of the information to be shared, either as private or general updates. It is always good practice to seek people’s wishes about what information about them is shared and with whom. The principles of MCA (Mental Capacity Act) still applies where people lack capacity. 

It is important to update families about a person’s COVID status as soon as this becomes clear, as well as their general health and well-being, especially as more tests are being done. This sharing of information will help to protect the resident’s and family member’s right to private and family life (protected by Article 8 of the Human Rights Act). You may well be asked about how you are communicating with relatives as well as how you are supporting quality care and improvement by the CQC. 

Care providers should keep residents and their family members as informed as possible about the situation about the COVID-19 status of the home. This includes whether there are any suspected or confirmed cases amongst residents and staff, what steps are being taken as a result of this, how the care home is working to keep residents and staff safe, and how they will keep residents and family members informed on an ongoing basis. This will help to alleviate anxiety and if you can keep contact proactively you may find less need for individual families to contact you reactively. 

For private information consider face time, email, phone calls and always keep a record of your contacts. For more general home information perhaps consider sending out a regular newsletter. Think about other group communication tools such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, WhatsApp groups, or email contacts for more general updates. If you use Person Centred Software there is a portal called “Relatives Gateway”, which is a secure network that allows for sending messages, photos, and staying in touch.