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Resident Councils In Nursing Homes  
What is a nursing home Resident Council?

A Resident Council is an independent, organized group of people living in a nursing home that meets on a regular basis to discuss concerns, develop suggestions on improving services and plan social activities.

The sizes and structure of Councils varies widely. Some Resident Councils function well with up to 30 residents at meetings. Others are effective with only a few active members. Leadership styles vary as does the amount of resident participation.

Why have a Resident Council?

The lives of nursing home residents are heavily controlled by laws, rules and policies set by the government and the nursing home. Compromises in life styles become necessary due to health problems and the close quarters in which residents live. These compromises and controls can make nursing home residents feel like their opinions and preferences do not matter.

Many nursing home residents are not content to give up control over their lives. They want an active role in life and the chance to influence decisions which affect them. A Resident Council gives them that chance.

Effective Resident Councils

  • Improve communication within their homes. They are known as places to get the facts and help dispel rumors.
  • Help identify problems early when it is easier to correct them. They are an important part of the grievance process and help avoid the necessity of discussing problems with outside sources.
  • Serve as a sounding board for new ideas.
  • Help individuals speak out about concerns and help overcome fear of retaliation. When people are dependent on others for their needs, there is fear that they may make others so angry that care will be withheld. Resident Councils lessen the fear because speaking as a group protects each individual.
  • Improve the atmosphere of the nursing home. The staff appreciates residents input in some of the responsibilities of planning activities and events.
  • Promote friendship. By working in small groups that meet regularly, residents have a chance to get to know each other well.

Do residents have a right to meet as a council?

Yes.

Federal and state laws give residents the right to meet as a council. At the time of admission, nursing homes are required to inform new residents of their right to establish a council if one does not exist or to participate in the activities of a council which is already operating.

Councils have the right to meet privately or to invite members of the nursing home's staff, relatives, friends, or members of community organizations to participate in the meetings. The residents of a home may invite a staff person to serve as liaison to the Council, to attend council meetings if requested and to provide needed support services and assistance such as typing minutes and correspondence.

How are Resident Councils organized?

The structure of a Resident Council can be the key to its success. The size of the home and the abilities and needs of the residents are important factors to consider in selecting a structure.

In small homes, Resident Councils are frequently operated as open meetings for all interested residents. There may be a steering committee to help plan meeting agendas and to follow up on decisions made by the Council. Larger homes often have Councils made up of representatives either elected or recruited from different sections of the facility. Council representatives are responsible for seeking the concerns and suggestions of residents in their area and for bringing this information to the meetings.

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