Empowering Your Resident Council
By Myrtle Klauer ADC, CAP
Secretary/Treasurer of NAAP

In long term care facilities, the Resident Council is mandated by law
and is the recognized forum established for the residents to voice their
ideas and/or concerns regarding their environment and care. This governing body
works closely with the administration of the facility and other staff to effect changes and
resolve problems within the facility where they reside.

The Resident Council is open to all residents; however, many residents are unable to
voice their ideas and/or concerns; therefore, the residents who are capable and
interested in affecting change often act on their behalf. To help those residents unable
to physically attend the Resident Council meetings, hold unit/floor meetings. Residents
are more apt to discuss issues in a smaller group setting with individuals they know
and trust. The Activity Professional assigned to the unit/floor should help the residents
elect a unit/floor representative who will take their comments back to the main body of
the Resident Council. The Activity Professional should take minutes and give them to
the unit/floor representative for the Resident Council meeting.

Interested family members, a community liaison, Ombudsman, and guests invited by
the Resident Council, can be present during the meeting. At the beginning of the
meeting the residents MUST affirm their permission to have “outsiders” present at the
meeting. Remember, this meeting is NOT an open forum for the staff and their
presence at the meeting is by INVITATION ONLY. Invited staff members should speak
at the beginning of the meeting, before any business is discussed. After the staff
addresses the Resident Council and/or answer the residents’ questions, the staff
members(s) are to leave the meeting.

Written by-laws and policies or procedures that define and clarify the operation of the
Resident Council are very important. These should be reviewed at least annually and
changes made to meet the current needs of the resident population. Copies of these
documents should be posted on each unit/floor and presented to the officers and
unit/floor representatives.

As a rule, the Activity Director serves as the staff designee to the Resident Council. It is
the staff designee's responsibility to organize the Resident Council meetings and
assist the officers in the execution of their duties. The staff designee is the liaison
between the residents and the management staff. It is this person's obligation to
protect the resident's anonymity and right to meet as an organized group.

It is the responsibility of the staff designee to meet with the officers to publicize the
meetings; develop the agenda; facilitate the meeting; record, type, and distribute the
minutes; and secure written responses and/or plans of action addressing the stated
concerns of the Resident Council. Guest speakers are approved by the Resident
Council and invited by the staff designee.

All issues need to be documented and resolved in some manner. The written
responses and action plans must be presented at the next Resident Council meeting
and updated accordingly. This documentation becomes part of the recorded minutes
and is kept on file for review by the administration, surveyors, corporate leaders, and/or
Ombudsman.
Protecting the confidentiality of the residents and family members involved in the
Resident Council is very important. An attendance must be taken; however, resident
and family member's names ARE NOT to be published within the body of the minutes.
The recorded attendance should be kept in the confidential Resident Council file
maintained in the Administrator's and staff designee's office.

The Resident Council should not be limited to complaints and demands. The residents
involved in the Resident Council are the leaders in the facility and should be
encouraged to use their leadership skills. They should assist in planning the meeting
and large events, offer ideas regarding destinations for trips into the community,
develop topics for outside speakers, select service projects for the residents to do, and
contribute to the facility's newsletter. There must be a positive focus or the Resident
Council will become nothing more than a monthly gripe session which is unproductive.

How to Empower the Resident Council

Empowering the Resident Council begins with a positive attitude, beginning with the
interdisciplinary team -- a belief in the leadership abilities of the residents, an
environment that fosters independence, and a little patience from the staff team.
Reversing negativity will take time and effort; however, the time the staff designee
spends working with the Resident Council officers and resident representatives to
enhance their natural leadership abilities and harness their creativity, benefits all
entities.

The process begins by gathering the officers and resident representatives for a review
of the regulations regarding Resident Councils; the by-laws and policies and
procedures; and the meeting structure. The residents should determine what changes
are needed in the by-laws or policies and procedures, and/or meeting structure to
facilitate a productive Resident Council. Any changes to the by-laws should be
publicized and voted on by the members of the Resident Council.

Developing a motto, objectives, and goals for the Resident Council provides guidance
and direction for the group. These should be reviewed at least annually. Establishing
timelines and action plans for the goals that have been set are other important
elements of the empowering process. These need to be reviewed on a more frequent
basis and become a measurement of how the Resident Council is doing.

A written agenda is one of the best tools to use at each meeting. The agenda should be
set prior to the meeting and incorporate input from the officers. The agenda should
have a beginning time and an ending time and serve as a tool to keep the meeting on
track. By setting time limits and a specific time for residents to share their compliments
and concerns, the officers have an easier time making sure that everyone gets an
opportunity to be heard.

Begin each discussion time with, "Are there any compliments or concerns that need to
be shared at this time?" Encourage the residents to share a possible solution for each
concern they bring before the Resident Council. This emphasizes a positive slant to the
discussion and results in departments and support staff receiving recognition for a job
well done and creative solutions that have been enacted on the residents' behalf.

To facilitate written responses to the issues brought before the Resident Council, a
Concern Form should be developed. This form should outline the concern; suggest
possible solutions; have room for a reply and action plan; establish a date when the
form is to be returned to the staff designee; and have a place for the supervisor's
signature. The officers should review the written responses several days prior to the
meeting so that clarification related to the solution and/or action plan can be
accomplished. This information is then shared by the Resident Council President
during the meeting.

The more the staff designee can involve the officers and leaders of the Resident
Council, the better. Ideally, the officers should take responsibility for running the
meeting and the staff designee should be there to support them and act as a resource.
This is not accomplished overnight and needs consistent reinforcement of the
residents' abilities.

Working with the Resident Council can be one of the most rewarding experiences for
the staff designee, especially when the group becomes a positive, respected forum
within the facility. Watching the transformation from "a bunch of complainers" to leaders
that effect positive changes for the good of all the residents is very gratifying.
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NAAP is the only national group that
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