The Missing Link: Explorations of Wellness when a Family Member Resides in Long-Term Care
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With the aging of our population and the higher risk of chronic illness and disability with age, more and more family members may be faced with the experience of having a relative transition into a long-term care (LTC) home. This reality necessitates greater understanding of family care partner needs to ensure wellness throughout their caring career. Using participatory action research, notions of wellness were explored for family partners in care with relatives residing in LTC homes. Using two LTC homes from a privately owned company called Specialty Care, ten family members were interviewed, followed by one focus group at each of the two LTC homes. Three major themes were revealed, each with several sub themes: (1) understanding wellness amidst challenges to keep a sense of wellness in life; (2) self-appraisal: becoming aware of personal beliefs and perceptions that influence wellness; and (3) assessing LTC homes and their influence on the experience of wellness. We not only revealed more about wellness and how it is experienced in the caring context, we also discovered leisure’s role in maintaining wellness and how embedded leisure’s influence is on the various aspects of wellness that family partners in care experience. Relationship-centred care is a framework we used to guide this study. It highlights the importance of family member needs, along with the needs of the residents and staff. With our enhanced understanding of family care partner needs, recommendations were made to the Specialty Care communities so they can work together to ensure optimal wellness is maintained for all parties, including family partners in care.