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A Blueprint for Effective Resident Councils

Individuals living in long-term care facilities are afforded Rights through the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law, which was created to promote quality of life for each resident and ensure dignity and self-determination. This law, enacted almost 40 years ago, was the start of a journey for residents, their advocates, State Agencies, Protection & Advocacy groups and many others who have continued to educate, enforce, and advocate for one of our most vulnerable populations.

Resident Rights can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, 42 CFR 483.10. Because these rights intertwine with every aspect of each residents' history, personal preferences, care, and daily routine, long-term care providers should strongly encourage and support Resident Councils in their facilities. According to the Resident Rights & Protections provided by CMS, residents "have a right to form or participate in a resident group to discuss issues and concerns about the nursing home’s policies and operations. Most homes have such groups, often called “resident councils.” The home must give you meeting space and must listen to and act upon grievances and recommendations of the group" (1)

Just as long-term care providers have the responsibility to encourage and support Resident Councils, individuals living in a long-term care community have the right and responsibility to form and participate in Resident Council. If Councils have effective leadership and processes, they can work together with the facility to ensure that rights are upheld, grievances are addressed, and residents are the driving force behind what matters most in their day-to-day lives.

How do you form a Resident Council? If you already have one, and it's more of a 'group therapy' session than an effective Council, how do you get out of that rut? What if your efforts to make changes don't seem to be working and you're addressing the same concerns month after month?

In response to many of those questions that seem to come up time and again, Friends of Residents in Long-term Care (FORLTC) partnered with North Carolina State University and were awarded a CMP grant for their project, Promoting Resident Well-being in NC Nursing Home Resident Councils. The purpose of this project is to provide a blueprint to guide Resident Councils and their leaders. This 'blueprint' comes in manual form and includes topics such as:

  • Information on Resident Councils and their importance

  • Exploring the types of Councils and choosing the best one for your facility

  • Resident Council structure, rules, by-laws, officers, duties, etc.

  • Making Resident Council work for your facility, including how to manage individual personalities so that everyone benefits, handling personal grievances outside of Council meetings, sharing leadership roles, engaging new residents, quiet residents, etc.

Additionally, there are videos available on the FORLTC website that contain this information, along with insight from NC residents living in long-term care communities. The Project was initially piloted in five NC nursing homes. FORLTC will use CMP funding to provide printed manuals to all North Carolina skilled nursing facilities, which will distributed to long-term care facilities by regional ombudsmen in the coming months! FORLTC anticipates that this material will be a roadmap for long-term care facilities to follow in providing better support and leadership for Resident Councils. We look forward to hearing success stories from facilities who will use the manual and the tools it provides to form and strengthen their Resident Councils for the benefit of individuals living in their communities!

In addition to FORLTC and North Carolina State University, this project received a great deal of work and support from its 'design team,' from the North Carolina Activity Professionals Association, Ombudsmen from Triangle J Council of Governments and Mid-Carolina Council of Governments, and Campsight Strategic Communications.

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