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Gerontologist. 2007 Aug;47(4):504-15.

Partners in caregiving in a special care environment: cooperative communication between staff and families on dementia units.

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Center on Aging, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington Avenue, Farmington, CT 06030-6147, USA.



This article reports the results of a randomized, controlled evaluation of Partners in Caregiving in a Special Care Environment, an intervention designed to improve communication and cooperation between staff and families of residents in nursing home dementia programs.


Participants included 388 family members and 384 nursing staff members recruited from 20 nursing homes, randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions. Project staff conducted training sessions on communication and conflict-resolution techniques with two groups at the intervention sites: staff and residents' family members, followed by a joint meeting with facility administrators.


Families, staff, residents, and facility programs in the intervention facilities all demonstrated positive outcomes from program participation. Families experienced significant improvement in communicating with staff and in staff behaviors toward them, and spouses of residents increased their care involvement. Staff reported reduced conflict with families and reduced depression; burnout for nurses increased for individuals in the control group but not those in the treatment group. Behavioral symptoms decreased for residents, and facilities implemented more family-focused programs.


Effective staff and family partnerships are critical in caring for residents with dementia. The Partners in Caregiving in a Special Care Environment program is an evidence-based intervention that enables these partnerships to develop and thrive, translating into improved experiences for residents, families, and staff.

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