Do families have unrealistic expectations of long term care?

If you’ve attended one of my workshops you’ve seen this formula:


“Disappointment = Expectations – Reality


It’s that simple.


When expectations and reality don’t line up, disappointment happens.


I had this experience when I was a family member, with an advantage most don’t have. I worked IN the seniors’ care business for 11 years. I understood the business. But not from the customer/family member standpoint.


Here’s a piece of reality for you.


Your families don’t know what they don’t know.


And it’s not their fault.


It may be they’ve never stepped foot into a seniors care home before now, and what they think they know about the industry is from the media. And then a crisis erupts in their family and they need much more support. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. 


There’s a reason that the first misconception I outline in Now What? is:



“I thought my loved one was going to get 24/7 one-on-one care.” 



Of course those of us working in seniors’ care know how ridiculous that is. But the reality is, this is a frequent and damaging misconception families have.


And it’s not their fault. Families don’t know what they don’t know.


A daughter gets the dreaded phone call. Her mom has had a fall. She feels afraid and her guilt about ‘putting her in a home’ gets triggered. She needs to know –  how could this even happen?


After all, she believed her mom was now in a place where she’s watched and kept safe at all times?


Sound familiar?


There’s now a gap between the family’s:



  • 24/7 one-on-one care, which means their loved one will never have an accident, and


  • the home provides 24/7 care but not 24/7 one-on-one: residents aren’t constantly watched resulting in


  • What do you mean my dad had a fall? Where were you? Why weren’t you watching him more closely? How could you let that happen?)


WE know 24/7 one-on-one care is an unrealistic (and impossible) expectation. It doesn’t mean the families know this.


Families don’t know what they don’t know. So, clarifying and adjusting expectations is key to minimizing disappointment.


Be clear with what your families can expect from you, as well as what your expectations are of your families.


That way you avoid the fallout that happens when expectations aren’t met.


I wrote a chapter on Expectations in my first book RECIPE for Empathy, and you can access that chapter here. In this chapter, I share six questions that will help you uncover their expectations. You can use these questions to learn more about what your families expect, believe and want from you and your team.


Once you have this insight, you can empower your families with the knowledge they need.


Close the gap between expectations and reality with curiosity and compassion, then you can avoid the pain and drama from disappointment.


And wouldn’t that be lovely?


P.S. if you’d like to learn more about how to set your teams and families up for success, check out my Now What? workshop here or schedule a call with me here.


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