Involving families in certain types of programs for residents, and in certain circumstances, should be seen as a positive approach to programming.
Rather than voicing concern that you are not providing enough programming, when families become involved, they know that their loved-one is engaged, and they see first hand how well you are doing your job and all the effort that is involved. And for some reluctant resident engagers, having a family member participate with them can be the bridge they need to feel comfortable joining in.
While most recreation staff know family involvement can be a bonus, they often experience limited participation by family members. Still other recreation staff avoid family involvement because they are concerned about the negative impact family participation may have, or that family members will have unrealistic expectations as to what the resident can do, leading to poor outcomes for the resident.
Encouraging family involvement is important, but needs to be done in a manner that enhances the likelihood of positive outcomes – for everyone. You want to avoid making the family members feel awkward, and ensure that they don’t disrupt the program.
Here are some tips you might try to encourage family participation, and also to avoid problems as a result of their attendance at programs.
- Attend a Family Council meeting and invite families to participate with the residents, and explain how they can help their loved one’s experience by joining in on recreation programs.
- Ask family members if they have any program ideas that they think the residents might enjoy.
- Invite individual family members to specific programs (rather than a blanket suggestion to “come to anything.”)
- Explain the purpose of the program how it runs, and why you think it might be well-suited to the resident’s personal interests and needs.
- Provide some guidance as to how they can participate and encourage their loved one’s engagement. This should include a reminder that the residents come first, and that it helps when family members hold off responding, to allow residents to join the activity.
- When a family member wants to take a resident to a program not suited to the resident’s abilities, explain how the program works, what the residents do to realize success, and the importance of providing a positive experience for the resident. Suggest another program that is better suited to the resident’s abilities.
By being proactive and taking a few extra minutes to encourage family involvement in programs with your residents, you are fostering more positive relationships at all levels. Your openness and helpfulness will be appreciated by the family members, your residents are going to enjoy their recreation experiences even more, and you will receive even more accolades. Everyone wins!