Setting Realistic Expectations

November 30, 2016 | Health System Risk Management


Setting realistic expectations with residents and patients and their family members involves informing them of what services the organization can and cannot provide, what facility staff can and cannot do, and what changes families may observe in their loved one during the aging process. Even when an aging services organization provides appropriate care to a resident, the care may not match the resident or family's expectations. Such disagreement may cause conflict between the organization and the resident and his or her family that could lead to avoidable litigation or other legal action or could otherwise damage the reputation of the organization should the dissatisfaction be made known to others. Healthcare organizations with aging care services, including independent-living, assisted-living, and skilled nursing facilities and home care agencies, should set realistic expectations for the care and services they provide to residents and effectively communicate those expectations to residents and family members during preadmission and orientation meetings, during meetings throughout the resident's stay, in print materials, and on the facility's website.

Setting expectations demonstrates that the organization wants to keep the resident's family informed of and involved in their loved one's care and shows the resident and family that it has "nothing to hide" regarding the care and services provided. Setting expectations also helps to establish a relationship with the resident and family based on honesty, trust, and openness (ECRI Institute).

When these objectives are achieved, family and residents are more satisfied. An important corollary to resident and family engagement is that they will be more likely to work with the organization to resolve complaints rather than turn to an attorney and litigate if things do not go as expected.

This guidance article discusses the rationale for setting realistic expectations with residents and patients and their families, provides tips and information on how to conduct the discussion, provides general guidance on effectively communicating with residents and their families in a way that continually reinforces realistic expectations, and discusses maintaining expectations throughout the resident's stay in an aging services facility.

The goals of setting realistic expectations for residents and...

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