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Long Term Care
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Organizing a Family Council
Each family council is different, according to the needs and interests of its members. As a result, there are no hard and fast rules about organizing and running a council. However, experience has shown that the effectiveness and ongoing success of a family council has much to do with the initial organizing.
Where to Begin
Before starting to organize a council, contact the social worker and the administrator of the home to enlighten them about family councils and to enlist their support. A presentation of the idea at a staff meeting of the nursing home would also be helpful, so that all nursing home personnel understand and do not feel threatened by a family council being started.
Plan an initial meeting with families and friends:
The Introductory Meeting
The introductory meeting should include:
Having co–chairs or alternating leadership is often a good idea. This builds leadership skills and prevents the chair from being "co–opted" by the facility and keeps the family council from becoming a "personal" agenda, rather than a group agenda. No chairperson should serve more than one year, unless there are no alternatives and he/she should not speak on behalf of the group without its permission.
Members will often suggest that the staff run the council instead of, or until, electing officers. This has proven to be unsuccessful in most cases. A staff–run council is not a family council. In many instances where a family council has been staff–run, interest and attendance has steadily declined or the council has lapsed into a purely social group. Often a staff–run council meets infrequently or is not very active because the staff doesn’t have adequate time to devote to it. In many instances, well–meaning staff persons have agreed to run a council "temporarily" only to find it much harder to get the family members to assume responsibility later. By selecting temporary officers at the very first meeting, many such problems can be avoided.
Although the facility is required to designate a staff liaison to provide assistance and to respond to written requests from the group, this staff person is not required to attend the meeting. In fact, staff are permitted to attend only with the consent of the council. It is important to have at least some time at each meeting where the family council members can meet in private.
A decision should be made on what the basic structure of the family council should be. Two structures are most common: