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The Value of Ongoing Education for Family Councils in Long-term Care

October 29, 2019

Written by Samantha Peck, Director, Communications & Education

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

For many people, learning is a lifelong endeavour. Knowledge, skills, and ideas are constantly brought to our attention. We may learn how to knit, how to speak another language, information about the prevalence of dark matter in the universe, theories of human behaviour, a new pie recipe, how to fix a clogged pipe, etc… The range of what we, as individuals, can learn throughout our lifetime is astounding! The same is true for Family Councils and Council members.

Long-term care is a complex sector with many moving parts and emerging issues. That’s one of the things I love most about this aspect of healthcare and society! However, this complexity means that there is a lot to learn and keep on top of. We need to keep learning in order to be effective change agents. This blog post will explore the value of ongoing education and learning for Family Council members, ways you can engage in education and learning, and topics you may want to consider learning more about.

Value of ongoing education for FC members

To advocate for change or work with your home to improve resident quality of life, you need to learn about the issue, LTC home, and LTC sector. It is only through learning about an issue that we can make recommendations and suggestions that can create change. And, when we explore issues and engage in learning, we may find that there is an opportunity to dig deeper into a topic or make change. It may come to your attention that there is something you can do with this information!  

Ongoing learning about healthcare issues affecting residents, caregiver experiences, and how long-term care works enables us to be better caregivers, partners in change, and take care of ourselves. This learning can take place formally or informally, from guest speakers or your peers, and in different forms. The opportunities are endless!

How to engage in education and learning

So, you may be asking yourself: how can I help myself and my Council be more educated and aware of all of these issues? Well, the first thing to recognize is that you don’t have to- and can’t possibly- learn everything at once. But, you can start somewhere. Here are some steps you can take in developing your Council’s education and learning plan:

Identify learning topics:

Start off by talking to your fellow Council members- in person, through email or online poll, or a Family Interest Survey- about what questions they have or topics they want to learn more about. Are people interested in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease? Communication at end-of-life? Deprescribing inappropriate medications? Caregiver burnout? The role of Social Workers in long-term care? Diversity, equity, and inclusion in LTC? How climate change could affect the future of Ontario’s LTC homes? Brainstorm a list of possible topics.


Prioritize the learning topics. Which issues are most pressing or important? If there isn’t immediate agreement of Council members on the high priority topics, consider voting or asking members to rank their top 3 issues, then analyze the results and develop a list.

Determine your learning method and book your speaker:

Once you get a list of possible topics and have prioritized the topics, determine how to proceed: is this a topic on which you want to bring in a guest speaker (internal or external to the home) or one that you want to explore informally as a group, learning from one another. If you want to bring in a guest speaker, assign the task of researching and identifying local subject matter experts (individuals or organization) to a Council member. Ask them to come up with options and bring the list to Council at the next meeting.

Then, have the Council member (or Staff Assistant) contact the person or organization and request a presentation. Make sure you have information on the requested date and time, topic, and location ready to give to the contact person. Then, book your learning and education session!

If you choose to have a less formal peer-to-peer learning session, develop a strategy for the session including possible questions to discuss, what materials to circulate in advance and/or discuss at the session, how notes (if any) will be recorded and shared, and who will be tasked with facilitating the session. Planning this in advance will help your learning session go smoothly.

Next steps and follow-up:

It’s important to consider what your Council will do with the information learned: will you take action? Discuss at a future meeting? Share with your home’s Residents’ Council or staff leadership team? Book another session on this topic? Consider how this learning will impact your Council and its members: will people do anything differently as a result of the learning? Do you need to know anything else or in more depth? Consider how you will support people to use what they’ve learned.

Types of education your Council may be interested in

There are many, many ways to learn about issues of relevance to Council members and many, many topics you might be interested in. Here are ideas to get you started:


  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • The Long-Term Care Homes Act as it applies to Family Councils
  • Parkinson’s disease and the importance of medications at the same time every day
  • Deprescribing inappropriate medications
  • Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)
  • Communication at end-of-life
  • How home menus are developed and the role of buying local food
  • Pharmacy services in LTC

Methods of learning

  • Invite FCO to deliver an in-person or online presentation on a Family Council topic
  • Invite leadership team members (Administrator, Director of Care, Dietician etc…) to speak at a Council meeting
  • Task a Family Council member with brining news articles and updates to FC meetings (Tip: Google News Alerts can be very helpful in collecting news articles)
  • Identify and book guest speakers from local organizations (e.g. Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario, Alzheimer’s Society)
  • Book study: read and discuss as a group a book (fiction or non-fiction) that relates to your experience as a caregiver or provides information on an issue affecting your loved one
  • Ask members to share something they learned since your last Council meeting- peer-to-peer learning is incredibly valuable!

Learning and education help improve Council effectiveness. Whether you book a Family Councils Ontario presentation, engage an internal or external guest speaker, or do peer-to-peer education, ongoing learning provides a foundation for us to make change. And we’re all involved in the LTC sector to make it the best that it can be. We’re here to make change.

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” ―Leo Buscaglia