Written By Lisa Dawson, Chair of the Vancouver Coastal Association of Family Councils
Lisa Dawson is the Chair of the Vancouver Coastal Association of Family Councils and is Vice-President/Secretary for the Provincial Association of Family Councils: Independent Long-Term Care Councils Association of BC (ILTCCABC). Lisa is also a Co-chair of the long-term care home family council where her father has resided for the past 13 years. For seven years now, the entire care home community has enjoyed a collaborative, respectful, and productive relationship with their family council. The following is an article about her experience working with family councils.
Families and those of importance to residents in long-term care (“families,” in short) are the unsung heroes of the long-term care provider team. These dedicated caregivers take on resident care tasks from feeding and hairdressing; to socialization and entertainment; to escorting to events and translation. They are invaluable to enhancing their loved ones’ quality of care and life!
How can families work with a home’s leadership to achieve the best possible experience for residents during their stay? The answer is family councils.
What is a family council?
A family council is an independent, organized, self-led group of families, friends and persons of importance to residents in long-term care (LTC) who:
- Work to improve the quality of care and life of the home’s residents; and
- Provide families with a voice in decision-making that affects them and their loved ones.
What do family councils do?
In my experience, there’s no limit to what a family council can and will do to advocate for continuous quality improvement for their loved ones.
Here are a few examples:
- Create the opportunity for members to meet in a safe environment that gives them privacy to openly discuss and plan for ways to improve residents’ quality of life.
- Offer ongoing support for one another. Strength can be drawn from mutually shared experiences.
- Act on concerns affecting LTC home residents
- Collaborate and communicate with LTC leadership both in writing and in person.
- Serve as a sounding board and advisory body on new ideas and improvements.
- Advocate for positive changes to improve residents’ quality of care and quality of life.
- Educate families about their own care home policy and procedures, the long-term care system in B.C., and community resources available.
- Quality is an intersection of a variety of indicators ensuring residents’ dignity, choice, and autonomy.“All of these things make a difference in the lives of residents, their families and staff, and the health care system that supports them,” says Lisa. “It’s the community of care coming together to improve health care!”
A Family Council Benefits the home and staff by:
- Promoting communication and collaboration with management and staff to build trusting relationships.
- Identifying concerns to be addressed and resolved before they become serious issues.
How can you get involved?
Get to know other families with a loved one in care to see if there’s interest in starting a family council. Or, if there’s already an existing family council, consider joining it. Reach out to the staff and administration at the long-term care home to see what their procedure is for supporting the establishment of new councils or transition to self-led councils. Contact your Regional Association of Family Councils and request their guidance and assistance. Independent Long-Term Care Councils Association of BC (ILTCCABC) email@example.com or contact Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org