How to Start a Family Council

The model for success starts with families talking about family councils with everybody-other families, residents, ombudsmen, people in your community, nursing home staff, the nursing home administrator, etc. Ask these people how they think a family group could help the facility.

Step One:

Find family and facility interested in a family council. Introduce families to the idea. Encourage families to participate.

  • Approach family members that are already active in the facility about helping you form a family council. Tell them about the Illinois Citizens for Better Care website. 
  • Contact ICBC or your local ombudsman for technical support and advice.

Step Two:

Talk to staff about forming a family council. Follow up on your meeting.

  • Talk to the administrator about starting a family council. Identify and address any concerns about a family council. Ask for the administrator's support in contacting families. 
  • With the administrator, identify who the council's staff liaison will be. (Usually, it's the social services or activity director.) 
  • Establish a date for a family meeting. Work with staff to have it in a room that can be closed off. Ask staff when they see the most visitors. This may be the best time for people to come. 
  • Work with the facility to develop flyers about family council information and meeting schedules. 
  • Ask the facility to mail an invitation to all families, either a separate mailing or included with the billing. 
  • Verify that the administration has done what they said. Have notices been posted? Were the letters received? 
  • Contact ICBC or your local ombudsman for technical support and advice.

Step Three:

Have an informational meeting where all families and friends of residents are invited.

  • At the meeting the organizer of the family council tells the families about their rights to such a family council group. 
  • Explain that a family council is independent, what is does, and why it's important. 
  • Decide if there is enough interest to form a family council. Two or three dynamic individuals are a great start! 
  • Agree upon a regular scheduled time to meet. 
  • Contact ICBC or your local ombudsman for technical support and advice.

Step Four:

Follow up on your information meeting. Hold a family council meeting.

  • Post the next meeting time. Personally contact family members. 
  • Plan the first meeting. 
  • Identify 1 or 2 facility-wide concerns. Develop strategies and action plans to address them. 
  • Contact ICBC or your local ombudsman for technical support.

Step Five:

Maintain the family council.

  • Have regular meetings. 
  • Keep up interest and publicity. 
  • Continue networking - Have face to face meetings with all families. 
  • Attend a staff meeting. Talk to staff about the benefits of a family council, and how they can support it. Ask them to encourage family members to participate. 
  • Talk to the resident council about why a family council is important. Ask them for names of family members that you could contact. 
  • Meet regularly with ICBC or your local ombudsman for technical support and to identify valuable resources.