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When your loved one is in a nursing home, there are many ways to still be involved in their day-to-day life. Research shows that family involvement during a nursing home stay can help improve quality of care. One way to be involved is to join or start a nursing home family council.
What is a nursing home family council?
To help prevent nursing home abuse and neglect, in 1987 Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act. This act guarantees the families of nursing home residents the right to form, organize, and hold private meetings as a group called a family council. Joining or creating a family council at your loved one’s nursing home is a great way to advocate for quality care.
According to the law, the nursing home facility is required to provide a meeting space and a designated staff person to be a liaison between the family council group and the facility. During the group meetings, family council members have the right to voice any concerns or suggestions about nursing home resident care and present their concerns to nursing home staff to act upon.
Per the law, the nursing home is required to listen to the family council’s issues and address them. In addition, family councils are legally allowed to meet without nursing home staff present to help members feel comfortable discussing important issues.
Some benefits of a nursing home family council include:
- Fostering communication between nursing home staff and residents’ families.
- Enhancing the quality of care for nursing home residents, including lowering the chances of nursing home abuse and neglect.
- Connecting families of the nursing home’s residents to provide support for one another.
To find out if your loved one’s nursing home has a family council, ask the home’s administrator or a lead staff member.
How to start a family council
If your loved one’s nursing home does not have a family council, we highly recommend that you start one. Here are some tips on how to get going:
- Do your research. Spend some time online becoming familiar with what a nursing home family council is and the benefits it can offer nursing home residents, staff, and families of nursing home residents. This resource is a great place to go to for examples of how to word letters to the various people who will be involved (such as the nursing home staff) and flyers for residents as well.
- Connect with families of other nursing home residents. See if they are also interested and can help you get the group off the ground. Ask what type of time they have and what they’d be willing to help with. Many hands make light work.
- Ask for support. Once you have basic information, approach your nursing home’s administrator to ask for their support in starting a family council. You can do this with a formal letter, by requesting a meeting, or both. For more detailed information and steps to take once there is interest, The National Consumer Voice for Long Term Quality Care provides a free, easy to use guide to starting a nursing home family council here.
- Meet for a family council. If the nursing home does not approve, you’re legally allowed to start a nursing home family council anyways. We encourage this as it’s another step to take that helps to prevent nursing home neglect and abuse.
This information will help you get started organizing a nursing home family council to help improve your loved one’s care and reduce the risk of nursing home abuse and neglect. If you do suspect nursing home abuse and neglect, reach out to Solomon & Relihan for a free consultation to talk about your loved one’s care.
Martin J. Solomon is a principal at Solomon & Relihan PC and has been licensed to practice law in Arizona since 1970. He practices exclusively in the area of personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on nursing home abuse and neglect. Martin is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, a past president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, and has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He is a member of the Nursing Home Litigation Group in the American Association for Justice (formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association), the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform and the Maricopa Elder Abuse Prevent Prevention Alliance.