Written by Lorraine Purdon, FCO Executive Director
One of the goals of a family Council is advocacy. To advocate means to plead another’s cause. In a long term care situation advocacy becomes an important aspect of caregiving. While we may think that our issues should be obvious to everyone that is not always the case and it falls to a caregiver to speak up and ask the questions and seek out answers.
A good advocate is one that does their homework. In Long-Term care this may mean knowing who to talk to about what and understanding the culture and operations of the home as they relate to the residents.
An effective advocate knows how to persevere when it seems things are not being done as planned even after several requests and meetings have not had desired outcomes. An effective advocate also knows when it’s appropriate to compromise.
An honourable advocate is one who understands what not to do. They are the ones who know that timing is important in terms of solving issues and are not always dissenting and complaining but also finding solutions to problems and ways to support the staff in the home in their work of caring for each and every resident.
As a family council all of the above are good guidelines to use for the advocacy role, however a council’s advocacy is on behalf of all the residents to make life in the home better for all involved. Personal issues of care need to be done by individual caregivers in partnership with the resident when possible and the appropriate staff. Matters of personal care are not ones that a Family council would be involved in.
Councils across the province have been very creative with their advocacy to improve the quality of life in their homes. Some examples:
- A council advocating with the local city government to create a bus stop outside their home so caregivers who do not drive can visit easily.
- A council wanted to improve the outside of the home and took on improving the garden and pathways so that residents in wheel chairs could enjoy the outdoors
- A council noticed that one hallway was rather dark and set about to improve the lighting to prevent falls.
Each of these projects that were initiated by the family council involved planning with the home administration and the resident’s council. The success of these projects went far beyond the actions themselves but created a sense of community within the home. People worked together and got involved contributing in whatever way they could. Family Council membership grew as other people saw the contribution the council was making and wanted to join in.
Being an advocate is a new role for many caregivers but as part of a family council the role can be creative and can bring some satisfaction that you are making a difference.
Family councils Ontario shares the projects and advocacy that councils are involved with and we encourage you to sign up for our newsletters. You may discover a great idea for your council to work.
Remember that the heart of advocacy is empathy.