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DEBBIE HOMMEL'S AD TIPS
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by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, Executive Director of DH Special Services.
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DEAR DEBBIE:
The Importance and Value of Resident Councils

Organizing and implementing an empowered Resident Council is a challenge to many activity
professionals.  In theory, the Council is a formal group of residents who come together as one
collective voice, to share ideas or concerns about issues and events in the facility.   The group is
mandated by federal law for nursing homes and by most state laws in assisted living or medical day
communities.   Beyond requiring such a council should exist, how the council is run or managed is
loosely defined in the regulations.

In most nursing homes, the number of residents who can assume an advocacy role is small.  The first
task the activity professional must introduce to the members of the council is to encourage those who
attend the meeting to advocate for their peers.  Many residents view the council as a place to air
personal complaints.  Although, individual concerns should be shared, the general membership
needs to see part of their role as looking out for their less able peers.  Open discussion of the purpose
of the council, how some concerns or needs are not isolated and the residents need to be supportive
of each other, and introducing positive means to implement change as a group can begin to suggest
the council is not “all about me”.

The council can be organized anyway the residents want it to be organized.  Having the traditional
officers of President, Vice-President, etc., is not required.  Sometimes it is difficult to find four residents
capable and willing to assume these leadership roles.  Having a Chairperson or Unit Representative
is acceptable, as long as the residents are involved in this decision.   It would be appropriate to create
by-laws for the council, defining how the council is organized and how concerns are communicated.  If
officers are in place, time limits of office and methods to re-elect officers should be defined.  

One of the major goals of the council is to follow up on any resident concerns.  If it is an individual
concern, the resident should be guided to more immediate means to address the problem.  For a
resident to wait two weeks for a Council meeting to voice a concern is too long to wait.   Periodic
council meetings should introduce and review the individual complaint process with the residents.  The
department heads may attend the meeting and encourage residents to come to them directly and
immediately if a problem occurs within their department.  The administrator should also share an open
door policy regarding individual concerns.   If the individual concerns are shared by many or they are
not addressed to the individual resident’s satisfaction, then the council should take action.    There
should be a formal and written process to document resident concerns and communicate them to the
responsible department head. The written response and proposed resolution to the concern should be
returned to the council by the following meeting for discussion and hopeful conclusion.  Many facilities
create a “Resident Council Concern” form for this purpose.  

Formal minutes of the meeting should be maintained.  They should follow the standard meeting
minutes format which would include date and time of meeting, a discussion of unfinished or “old”
business, and introduction of new business.  It is good practice to discuss any concern that was
mentioned in the previous meeting, following up on any resolutions and if the residents are satisfied
with the outcome.  It is also good practice to go through each department systematically, noting positive
comments as well.  The meeting can be used as a means to make “announcements” and share
facility news which can be included in the minutes.  The minutes should be typed and neatly filed into a
binder, kept in chronological order.  

If one particular department frequently is the focus of resident concerns, that department head should
be invited to the meeting.  This would allow open and direct discussion of the situation as well as
immediate response to any introduced concerns.  Any staff member who attends any meeting should
be involved as an invited guest.  The staff member who may be facilitating the council should remind
the residents of this right periodically and offer them the opportunity to meet privately, if they so desire.  

The Council can be involved in productive and positive activities.   Using the council as a means to
manage election information and complete absentee ballots is effective.  The Council may invite local
politicians to speak at the facility.   Developing committees is another positive task for the council.  
Various committees can focus on welcoming new residents, selecting entertainment or bus trip
locations.   Some councils raise funds for a variety of uses.  Any council fund raising should be
announced as such.  The residents should collectively decide how any funds are distributed.  Donating
to local charities or purchasing something expensive that the entire resident population can enjoy such
as a large screen television would be appropriate.  Compete records of funds raised and
disbursements should be maintained.

A positive and productive council is a rewarding experience for both the residents and staff who may be
involved.  Having an administrator and facility staff that understand the purpose of the Council and
believe in supporting the resident’s right to speak out and make a difference in their community will
contribute to your council’s success.

The Resident Council Coalition
http://www.npbdc.com/resident.htm

Resident Councils of Washington
http://www.residentcouncil.org/

Resident Council Handbook
http://www.residentcouncil.org/book/the_book_order_form.shtml
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, is
the Executive Director of DH Special
Services. She is a Certified Activity
Consultant on State and National
level, with over twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct care
and consultation to long term care,
medical day care, assisted living,
and ICF/MR facilities throughout New
Jersey, New York, Maryland, and
Pennsylvania. She is an experienced
trainer and workshop presenter,
conducting a variety of seminars
throughout the Tri-State area for the
Activity Professional, Administrator,
and allied healthcare professional.
Debbie Hommel is an active member
of Activity Professional Associations
on State and National levels. She is
ACC certified through the NCCAP.
She is a founding member of the
New Jersey Activity Professionals'
Association, serving terms as Vice
President and President. She
received the Weidner Lifetime
Achievement Award in 1994 and the
Monmouth & Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life Achievement
Award in 1999.
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