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Why are relatives of care home residents reluctant to “rock the boat”? Is there a culture of acceptance?

Elizabeth Welch (Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Sinead Palmer (Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Ann-Marie Towers (Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Nick Smith (Personal Social Services Research Unit, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 12 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore whether relatives of care home residents are best placed to act as “champions” or advocates for their family members, as is often the expectation.

Design/methodology/approach

Focus groups and interviews were conducted with 25 relatives of residents in four care homes for older people in the South East of England. Two rounds of focus groups were held in each participating care home: the first was to discuss any issues arising from the care received, or concerns about the home itself; the second was to enable a deeper exploration of the key themes that arose from the first round and explore why relatives, in this case, failed to complain.

Findings

Thematic analysis revealed a complex range of emotions experienced by relatives that contributed to a conflict between what they believed to be the correct response and how they behaved in reality, which led to a culture of acceptance. Analysis revealed some relatives were reluctant to “interfere” for fear of possible negative repercussions, thus they downplayed issues in an attempt not to “rock the boat”.

Originality/value

This paper discusses the flaws in the policy emphasis on personalisation and the reliance on family members as advocates, and concludes with suggestions on how care homes may foster an environment where relatives, and indeed residents, feel comfortable to raise issues and concerns.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Jane Dennett, Ann Netten, Amanda Burns and Lesley Curtis for their administrative and research support. The authors would also like to express the gratitude to all the residents, relatives and friends of residents, the staff and management of all the care homes that took part in the study. Without them the study and therefore the findings of this paper would not have been possible. The research on which this paper is based was funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research. The views expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR School for Social Care Research or the Department of Health/NIHR.

Conflict of interest: the authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Citation

Welch, E., Palmer, S., Towers, A.-M. and Smith, N. (2017), "Why are relatives of care home residents reluctant to “rock the boat”? Is there a culture of acceptance?", Working with Older People, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 124-132. https://doi.org/10.1108/WWOP-10-2016-0030

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited