What is a Family Council?

A family council is an independent (self-led and self-determining) group of families and friends of nursing home residents. Together, family council members work to protect and improve the quality of life of residents. They give families a voice in decisions the nursing home makes about the people they love.

You can think of a family council like the Parents' Association in your child's school. Concerned family members become involved to ensure that their loved one's needs are met. A united voice can accomplish what one voice cannot. Shared ideas can spark systemic change. There is strength in working together.

Every family council will have different goals, objectives, and activities. All work to increase support, education, communication, and action.


Family councils provide ongoing mutual support and strength drawn from shared experiences. They bring together family members from different backgrounds. Family members are able to connect through similar issues and obstacles. They can share ideas and knowledge, and even check on one another's relatives when they visit the nursing home.


Because most residents now enter nursing homes straight from the hospital, family members have little time to research homes, or to learn about nursing home policies and issues. Family councils can invite speakers, attend seminars, and spread information about specific concerns affecting their nursing home. When family members are informed, they are better equipped to advocate for their loved one.


Staff and family members use two different approaches to care for the same resident - professional and personal - and sometimes butt heads because of it. However, professional (nursing home staff) and volunteer (family and friends) caregivers seek a common goal; quality care for the residents. Family councils strive to align these two viewpoints to reinforce care capacity. The best care happens when family members and nursing home staff work together. Family councils do their part by communicating with staff about shared concerns, and proposing how they can be a part of the solution.


Perhaps most importantly, a family council acts on shared concerns. They give written action forms to the nursing home administration. The family council identifies, prioritizes, and then thoughtfully investigates shared concerns. Articulate, researched, and well documented common concerns enable the administration to enforce positive change. You can look at the council action form for a good example. Depending on what the issue is, if the facility refuses to meet the council's requests, the family council can contact the local ombudsman for support, file a complaint with Public Health, go up the food chain to the corporate office, or figure out how best to press the facility administration to reconsider.