Background: Family involvement in long-term care (LTC) is important but it can prove challenging and result in conflict with staff if families do not feel connected to the LTC facility or if they believe that their contributions are undervalued. According to McMillan & Chavis (1986), sense of community (SOC) refers to a feeling of belonging, having influence, having needs met, and having an emotional connection to individuals in a community, and may be particularly essential for family caregivers of military veterans in LTC. This is the first study that evaluates SOC among family caregivers in LTC.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews and self-report questionnaires assessing caregiver demographics, caregiving variables, and SOC were administered to 46 family caregivers.
Results: Caregivers endorsed a SOC that was positively related to key caregiving variables, such as family adjustment and satisfaction with care, and was negatively related to conflict with staff. Notably, caregivers’ connections to the military community were positively related to SOC in LTC. Multiple regression analyses indicated that satisfaction with care accounted for the most variance in SOC (32.7%).
Conclusions: This is the first study that examines SOC among family caregivers of military veterans in LTC, a subgroup of family caregivers with unique histories and needs. Although there are measures designed to assess family members’ level of satisfaction with different facets of LTC, SOC provides unique information about whether family members feel part of the LTC community as valued partners in care. SOC is an important yet understudied construct that could contribute substantially to our understanding of family-focused care.