Why Are Family Councils Important?

Oftentimes, most people are familiar with resident councils as opposed to family councils.  As defined by the ElderCare Rights Alliance, a family council is an independent self-led and self-determined group of families and friends of residents. The purpose of a family council is to promote and improve the quality of life for those who live in a long-term care facility. Many people do not realize that the importance of Family Councils is recognized by state and federal law. As referenced by the ElderCare Rights Alliance, according to the law: families and friends have the right to organize, maintain, and participate in family councils; the facility must provide a private meeting space for the council; the family council has the right to make recommendations regarding facility policies; the family council has the right to participate in the annual survey conducted by the Office of Licensure; the nursing home must designate a staff person to assist the council and respond to written requests and the nursing home must try to establish a council, if one does not exist.

People may ask why have a family council at my facility even if it is doing well? There are many benefits to having a family council. One of the benefits is that a family council can be a great communication tool in building and/or maintaining positive and healthy relationships between staff and council members to ensure the quality of life and care for residents is being fulfilled.  One of the roles of the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is to promote and support the development of family councils.  In addition to providing a safe channel for airing grievances, family councils can serve as a source of education, support and creative ideas for improving residents’ conditions. 

Many facilities find that this can be a positive tool for both the families and for the facility.  Facilities can address issues that the family council brings to them and can educate family members on facility procedures, activities, and issues.  This can be a great benefit for all involved.  

A family council, however, is not the best forum for dealing with more serious issues, such as abuse.  Such complaints should go to local Long-Term Care Ombudsman offices, to Adult Protective Services, and to licensing authorities, which can look into cases.

The Ombudsman Program encourages families to ask if there is an active family council at their loved ones facilities and if not, the Ombudsman program can support their efforts in establishing one. If you wish to have more information about this group or starting a family council please contact the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman office at 703-324-5861, TTY 711.

The following are helpful websites on family councils:

  • www.nccnhr.org - Select Consumer Center for family council information;
  • www.eldercarerights.org - Select Nursing Home Councils for more info on family councils.


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