Improving the integration of informal caregiving in long-term residential care

Informal caregiving is defined as care provided by family and friends to a relative or friend residing in a long-term residential care (LTRC) situation. The role of informal caregivers is significant. Informal caregivers contribute more than 44 million hours of care work in LTRC facilities each year; a number that will more than double to 107 million hours in 2038 (source: Canadian Alzheimer Society). These contributions are essential given the current pressures on LTRC, which include an increasingly acute and medically/socially complex resident population and staffing levels that are typically below industry standards. Dr. Jennifer Baumbusch is conducting a series of studies focused on understanding how informal caregivers currently participate in LTRC. Dr. Baumbusch is asking the following research questions in order to better understand the role of informal caregiving and to develop and refine policies and practices to improve the integration of informal caregiving in LTRC. In what ways do informal caregivers contribute to the care of their relative? In what ways do informal caregivers contribute to the care of other residents? How do the informal caregivers’ contributions affect the everyday facility routines, such as recreational activities and meal times? Research will take place on regular units and on Special Care Units for residents with Alzheimer disease and related dementias and will recognize the unique needs of this specialized population. This program will incorporate ethnographic approaches and will be guided by input from community stakeholders. Research findings will be consolidated with existing literature to provide the basis for knowledge translation activities which will include policy forums that foster a national dialogue about caregiving in LTRC, collaborative knowledge translation research, and arts-based knowledge translation approaches. The aim of this program is to improve the integration and recognize the unique contributions of both informal caregivers and formal caregivers (staff) to care provision. Generating new policy directions will contribute to more effective healthcare services within LTRC and will ultimately improve the health of aging Canadians living in LTRC.