The preservation of spousal and partner relationships among nursing home residents

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University of Alabama Libraries

The decision to seek placement in a nursing home can be difficult for both the residents and their families. This may be especially true for spouses or partners of the potential nursing home residents. Disruption of the attachment relationship following placement is likely influence the psychosocial well-being of nursing home residents. Although the responsibility of nursing home staff is to ensure psychosocial well-being, including awareness of the influence that separation can have on a spousal or partner relationship, little is known about services offered for the maintenance of spousal and partner relationships. This mixed-method study explored the availability of services and activities that emphasize the preservation of spousal and partner relationships among nursing home residents. A survey instrument designed specifically for this study was administered with a sample of licensed social workers currently practicing in nursing homes in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. This study also explored the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on relationships between nursing home residents and their spouses or partners. Survey results revealed that approximately 49% of respondents reported having a written policy to preserve these relationships; however, only 22% reported having a program to carry out the facility’s written policy. Data from semi-structured interviews provided an opportunity for further exploration. Providing privacy, facilitating outings, and encouraging participation in facility activities were often discussed by these social workers. Additionally, participants shared barriers experienced in implementation, including privacy and cognitive capacity. Both survey respondents and interview participants shared their perspectives on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions. Participants noted the negative effects of these restrictions on residents’ spousal and partner relationships, as well as mitigating practices including the use of plexiglass or window visits, video calls, and encouraging residents to remain engaged with family members. This results of this study have several implications for social work practice. Both current practices, as well as suggestions for additional services to preserve these important relationships, are highlighted. Nursing home social workers can utilize the results in the design and implementation of additional services to preserve relationships between residents and their spouses/partners.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Social work, Gerontology