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By Tangram Insurance Services
December 12, 2023

Communication breakdowns can put your residents at risk and expose your facility to liability. When staff members are busy, important information can slip through the cracks. Communication log best practices can ensure things run smoothly at your residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE).

Communication Logs Enable Better Care

Imagine that a resident with early signs of dementia tries to leave your facility on a cold night. A staff member notices and redirects the resident. The resident is clearly confused and would have been in danger outside in the elements, but the staff member on shift leads the resident back to safety. The next day, a different staff member is working the night shift, but this employee is unaware of the near-miss that occurred previously. The resident once again tries to leave and is successful this time. The resident is not found until hours later. By then, she is suffering from hypothermia. If all team members had been aware of the near-miss, they may have been able to prevent this incident.

To provide consistent care, all care providers need to have access to the same information. However, shift changes can be busy, and staff members may not relay some information verbally. A detailed communication log ensures they don’t overlook anything.

Communication Logs Provide Families with Important Information

Families frequently want to check in on their loved ones. This is a good thing and something you should encourage. However, these check-ins may go poorly if staff members can’t provide detailed information about residents. Families may conclude that the facility is neglecting their loved ones.

Once again, a communication log can save the day. By referencing the log, every staff member can see how a resident is doing and whether there have been any changes or concerns.

This information can instill confidence in the level of care the facility provides. It can also help alert the family to any issues they need to address. For example, if a resident has been experiencing more challenges recently, it’s possible the resident needs to move to a facility that can provide a higher level of care. Family members may be reluctant to move their loved ones, but if you can show a detailed record of why this is necessary, they may be more willing to listen.

Communication Logs Can Provide Critical Documentation

If a lawsuit is filed against your facility, your communication logs could provide important evidence. For example, if a resident’s family sues you for neglect, your communication logs may help show that you were providing consistent and quality care and responding to the resident in a thorough and timely manner. This evidence could be the difference between winning or losing your case. On the other hand, if there are holes in your communication log, the plaintiff’s lawyer may use this as evidence that neglect occurred. Remember: when it comes to defense, the family will argue that if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen.

What to Include in Your Communication Logs

You should check state regulations and work with its insurer and risk manager to determine which details should be captured within your communication logs. Logs typically include the following items, but they may also include additional details.

  • Incidents that occur, such as falls, injuries, accidents, or wandering
  • Noticeable changes in behavior or concerns about the resident
  • Complaints made by the resident or the resident’s loved ones
  • Actions your team members take, such as calls to the doctor, for an ambulance, to the family, or to the licensing department and hospital visits
  • The time and date of the incident or action
  • The name of the staff member recording the information
  • All changes in the resident’s condition

Monitoring Your Communication Logs

Over time, busy staff members may fall into bad habits. They may forget to update their communication logs or start providing less detailed information. Review logs regularly to ensure employees are completing them thoroughly. If they are not, provide follow-up training.

Communication Log Best Practices

In addition to the above, keep the following best practices in mind:

  • Provide space on logs for detailed information and notes.
  • Give your team time to fill out logs.
  • Stick to the facts, keeping notes as objective as possible. When noting changes in behavior, provide specific examples. When noting complaints, avoid opinions and other subjective comments.
  • Since the logs may include sensitive information, you need to keep them in a secure location. Only staff members should have access to logs.
  • Make sure the information is legible. Avoid using abbreviations and make sure handwritten notes are easy to read.

Communication logs can help reduce your liability, but you still need RCFE liability insurance. Tangram provides residential care facility insurance through the Personal Care & Assisted Living Insurance Center (PCALIC). Our program caters to the risk management and insurance needs of assisted living and residential care facilities. Learn more.


Article provided by Tangram Insurance Services.