Research shows family involvement during a loved one’s long-term care facility stay can help ensure that the facility provides quality care. Under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, when a person is admitted to a nursing home, family members have a right to be involved with the care of their loved one, unless the resident states that he/she does not want family involvement. Below are some suggestions and tips for family involvement:
- Participate in the initial assessment. The assessment, which gathers information about the health, physical condition, habits, activities and relationships of the resident/tenant, is key to understanding what a particular individual needs to maintain physical, mental and social function within the long-term care setting. Use the assessment to introduce your loved one to the facility’s staff, share information about his/her personal preferences and, most importantly, help tell your loved one’s unique life story.
- Attend care plan review conferences. Individualized care plans, especially in nursing facilities, are developed by interdisciplinary teams (e.g., health care providers, social workers, activities staff, dietary staff) to create a strategy for a resident’s care and ensure all medical and non-medical issues are addressed. Care plan review conferences are an excellent opportunity to share with the facility what you think is working or what changes need to be made.
- Visit your loved one. Residents and tenants have the right to private and unrestricted visits from their relatives, friends and other individuals of their choice. Residents/tenants and their family members also have the right to decide what visits involve and when they take place. Visits are an important time to look for changes in your loved one’s health and mental status and determine whether progress is being made toward meeting the goals in his/her care plan.
- Get to know the staff. Learn the names of the facility’s staff and their roles and responsibilities as they relate to your loved one’s care. Be sure to develop a relationship with the workers who provide direct, hands-on work with your loved one, such as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or nurse aides.
- Become familiar with the facility's Resident and/or Family Councils. Resident and Family Councils are vital to the operation of a nursing facility and are an excellent way to stay abreast of the day-to-day issues and concerns in the facility. Protected by federal law, resident and family councils provide an organized method of creating change, providing support and improving the quality of care for nursing facility residents.
- Advocate for your loved one. Being an advocate for your loved one means monitoring his/her care and condition during regular visits and raising any concerns with staff or, if necessary, with the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman or Department of Inspections and Appeals, about his/her quality of care and quality of life.
Resident and family councils are vital to the operation of a nursing facility, providing a voice for residents and their families and loved ones. Protected by federal law, resident and family councils provide an organized method of creating change, providing support and improving the quality of care for nursing facility residents.
A resident council is an independent, organized group of residents who live in a nursing facility and meet on a regular basis to promote and enhance the quality of life for all residents. Resident councils create change, address quality-of-life and quality-of-care issues, plan resident activities and discuss matters brought before the council.
A family council is a group of family members and friends of nursing facility residents who work to maintain or improve the residents' quality of life. Family councils can structure themselves, determine meeting schedules and assign duties as council members see fit.
Resources for Resident and Family Councils
Because the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman works to resolve concerns made by or on behalf of residents living in long-term care facilities, it is a valuable resource when it comes to providing information about:
- Residents’ rights;
- The role of resident and family councils in promoting residents’ rights;
- Ways resident and family councils can work with nursing facility staff to identify problems and take action on issues impacting residents' quality of life; and
- How to organize and promote resident and family councils.
Learn how to create and maintain an effective council in the Publications section of our Resource Library.