Research focus

How do we facilitate carers’ involvement in decision making?

Despite being 15 years old, this study remains relevant. To investigate carer involvement in care planning in the psychiatric unit of an older person’s hospital, the researchers observed multidisciplinary ward rounds and family meetings, and reviewed documentation about admissions, discharges and care plans. They also conducted interviews with 20 carers and with members of the 29-strong multidisciplinary team to explore their experiences of carer involvement.

Overall, the carers were dissatisfied with their level of involvement. Findings suggest that this is partly because there were no agreed procedures or objectives for carer involvement, which meant that carers had to be assertive to be involved. While some carers may have had unrealistic expectations of their involvement, the lack of communication and transparency about how decisions were made added to their frustration. For some nurses, meanwhile, carers were a source of stress and were therefore to be avoided.

The study notes that there is a need for management strategies to support nurses and carers to negotiate their involvement openly, and suggests some questions that health practitioners can ask to guide the development of partnerships with carers.