Resident perceptions of opportunity for communication and contribution to care planning in residential aged care
Background and Aim: Irrespective of age, communication is a tool of expression and a key daily activity meeting the human need for social interaction and connection. The introduction of consumer-directed care (CDC) emphasises the importance of communication to provide consumers with the opportunity to exercise choice over the care they receive. As consumer-directed care progresses, it is hypothesised that the feasibility of shared decision-making and care planning in residential aged care will be largely determined by the communication opportunities afforded to the residents. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore resident perceptions of the opportunities they have to communicate, including the opportunity to express their care preferences and contribute opinions about their care. Design: A qualitative inductive design was adopted. Methods: An individual interview format was used to gather the perspectives of 102 residents. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis to generate themes illustrating patterns in participant views. Findings: Overall, residents desired increased involvement in their care planning and increased opportunity for more meaningful communication and social opportunities. Residents described the negative impact of the communication difficulties they face on their communication and the need for support and activities to be tailored to residents' individual communication needs. Conclusions: To facilitate resident participation in CDC and meet resident desire for increased social communication, further investment in resources to support resident-staff communication and accommodate residents' individual communication needs is required. Implications for Practice: By highlighting communication as a stand-alone activity and a priority of residents, the findings of this study raise the profile of communication and demonstrate the need for explicit allocation of care time and specialist services to support resident-staff communication and social communication in residential aged care. Such support must be tailored to meet residents' individual communication needs and be coupled with increased staff training in providing communication support. Without facilitating resident communication and increasing the opportunity to communicate, shared decision-making and care planning in residential aged care consistent with person-centred and consumer-directed models of care will be limited.