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The Gerontologist 43:96-106 (2003)
© 2003 The Gerontological Society of America

A Cooperative Communication Intervention for Nursing Home Staff and Family Members of Residents

Karl Pillemer, PhD1,, J. Jill Suitor, PhD2, Charles R. Henderson,, Jr., MA3, Rhoda Meador, MS4, Leslie Schultz4, Julie Robison, PhD5 and Carol Hegeman, MS6

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Karl Pillemer, PhD, Director, Cornell Gerontology Research Institute, MVR G39, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853. E-mail: kap6{at}

Purpose: This article reports on a randomized, controlled study of Partners in Caregiving, an intervention designed to increase cooperation and effective communication between family members and nursing home staff. Design and Methods: Participants included 932 relatives and 655 staff members recruited from 20 nursing homes, randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions. Parallel training sessions on communication and conflict resolution techniques were conducted with the family and staff in the treatment group, followed by a joint meeting with facility administrators. Results: Positive outcomes were found for both family and staff members in the treatment group. Both groups showed improved attitudes toward each other, families of residents with dementia reported less conflict with staff, and staff reported a lower likelihood of quitting. Implications: Multiple studies report significant interpersonal stress between family members of nursing home residents and facility staff members. Partners in Caregiving appears to be an effective way to improve family–staff relationships in nursing homes.

Key Words: Long-term care • Family–staff relationships • Communication resolution

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Copyright © 2003 by The Gerontological Society of America.