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All About Care Conferences

All About Care Conferences
What Is a Care Conference?

Care conferences are held for every person receiving health care at home or in a care facility. They help the “care team” ~ everyone involved in the person’s care ~ share information and work together to meet the person’s needs.

Think of it this way: A hiker needs a map. A builder needs a floor plan. A shopper needs a list. People who provide health care are the same. To do their best, they need a “care plan” for the person they’re caring for. A care plan tells:

  • what the needs are
  • what the team’s goals are for meeting those needs
  • what steps are planned to meet those goals.

When Are Care Conferences Held?

The first care conference is usually held before or soon after care begins. This is a chance to share information and talk about concerns. At the first care conference:

  • assessment ~ a list of the needs staff sees ~ is presented. This is used to help plan care; and it also acts as a kind of starting point or “baseline” to see how things change ~ getting better or worse ~ as time goes by.
  • Facts about the person are discussed. Things like:
    • family and work background
    • medical and social needs
    • attitude and interests
    • likes and dislikes
  • A plan is worked out so that everyone acts as a team: they know their part, and they also know what others are doing.

After the first conference, more care conferences are held as changes take place, or after a set amount of time has passed. These new meetings are used to keep the assessment, facts, and plan up-to-date.

What's Your Role?

You may have an important role to play in an upcoming care conference…

. . . if you are a resident or patient. Taking part in your own care planning is a right protected by law ~ and one you should take advantage of, if you can. Let the care team know what you think. Do you want one thing over another? Say what your decision is.

. . . if you are a family member or friend. You may be involved because the person has asked you to attend. Or because the person is no longer able to understand and make decisions and you’re there as his or her health care representative. Either way, you can help by: being a familiar face and providing support, and by helping staff understand as much as possible about the person.

. . . if you are part of staff. Home care or nursing facility staff who attend care conferences are there to explain, ask questions, and gather information. They also take information back with them to others on the care team who could not attend, so everyone knows the plan.

How Can You Get Ready?

In today’s health care, there’s no room for wasted time. So care conferences should run smoothly. They will if you help by getting ready ahead of time.

  • If you are a resident, patient, or family member, you’ll get word ahead of time telling when and where the next care conference will be. Take the time to let staff know whether or not you plan to attend. If you want to make sure an issue or concern of yours is discussed, bring it up at this time.
  • If you’re going to attend, be sure to get there on time . . . or even a bit early. That way, you’ll have some time to meet the others. And things won’t seem so hurried.
  • Beforehand, jot down any questions or concerns you have. And make a note of any facts you think the care team should know about.
  • During the meeting, speak up. If you don’t understand a point, ask to go over it again. If you don’t agree with something, say so.

What If You Don't Live Nearby?

You might not live close enough to come to every care conference. If you can’t attend because of distance, you can still help the care team.

  • Beforehand, you can raise questions or concerns by phone or letter with a contact person on staff ~ such as a social worker.
  • Afterward, talk with the staff person again. What was discussed at the care conference? What new information should you be aware of?
  • If you can’t usually attend, but plan to visit in the future, let staff know. With enough notice, maybe a care conference can be set while you are in town.

Are Care Conferences Important?

You bet they are!

  • They help make sure there is a team approach to care.
  • They help make sure everyone providing care has the facts they need.
  • They help make sure everyone understands three key things: the person’s needs; the goals set up to meet
    those needs; and the plan for reaching the goals.

When The Resident or Patient Can't Understand

A resident or patient who can no longer understand what’s happening ~ because of Alzheimer’s, stroke, or some other condition ~ is still an important part of the care team. His or her right to take part in care planning doesn’t go away because of “incapacity.” But you may have to attend and speak for the person as a stand in. If this happens, your job is to say and do what the person would want if he or she could still take part.

Who Is On the Care Team

In care at home or in a nursing facility, a care team includes:

  • the patient or resident, who is the most important person on the team.
  • family, when the person asks them to come ~ or if the person needs help.
  • the doctor, who is in charge when it comes to medical care.
  • nursing staff, who provide nursing and personal care.
  • social work staff, who help meet emotional and social needs.
  • rehab staff (physical, occupational, speech therapy), who help set and meet goals for getting back or holding on to as much function and independence as possible.
  • In a nursing facility, the care team also includes:
  • activities staff, who help meet the need for an active life.
  • dietary staff, who plan the kind of meals the person needs and wants.

Copyright IlluminAge, 206-625-9128. Reprinted exclusively for individual use by long term care residents and their families. All other use, reproduction, distribution or adaptation is prohibited.

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