You Asked Us: Clarification of Family Council Membership

by Family Councils Ontario

We have had a lot of questions about the memo that Nancy Lytle, the Director of Performance and Improvement and Compliance Branch, sent to all Long Term Care homes to clarify a point made in “The Guide to the Long-term Homes Act , 2007” regarding membership in a Family Council after a resident dies or is transferred.

Link to the Memo

The first page of this letter is to inform operators of what the guide currently says.

The second page of this letter corrects the guide and lays out the clarification. The important point of this letter is found on page two in the first paragraph of the page.

“Each Family Council is unique and may determine its own role and the responsibilities of its members consistent with the requirements in the LTCHA. The ministry would like to clarify that Family Councils can individually determine the appropriateness of the continued membership and participation of Family Council members after the death or transfer of a resident as long as there is no conflict with the requirements in the LTCHA. For example, an individual Family Council could determine that the Family Member of a deceased resident can continue to be a member, even if the family member does not have a relationship with another resident in the home”

Many Family Councils have members who stay on a Council after the death of their relative. On the other hand some people want to leave the council after their relative dies.

FCO encourages each Council to discuss this and have something in their Terms of Reference about what happens in the event of a resident of a Council member’s death or transfer.

Having a “stake” in the Home is an important factor to consider when thinking about Council involvement and membership. When a Council member loses the connection to the Home then it is probably time for them to find other places to volunteer and ways to contribute. People who have a “stake” in the Home are in the home regularly connecting with residents and their families along with attending Council meetings. They are the ones who love to visit and spend time with residents. They can give lots of support to families who are new to Long-Term Care and can contribute in many ways because they have lived experience of being a caregiver for someone in Long-Term Care. Since these folks have Council experience they can be a great asset to helping the Council organize and plan. Many Councils find that these members make a special contribution to their work and their participation and membership is encouraged and welcomed.

On the other hand when a person has no stake in the Home but continues to attend Council meetings they may keep bringing up old issues that may no longer be relevant. Having lost the connection to the life in the Home they may not be aware of changes in the Home, know the residents or the staff and in this situation not be able to contribute to the Council in a helpful way. In this case it can sometimes be difficult for the Council to move ahead with new ideas and work.

Councils have had different approaches to this membership question and the best practice is to address membership in your Terms of Reference and review the terms regularly – at least once a year. In this way a Council has a chance to discuss membership and build consensus and a team together.

Across the province the contribution that Family Councils make in the Home is invaluable. Family Councils and their members enrich the life of Long-Term Care Homes and that directly improves the quality of life for the residents and for families.

- Lorraine, FCO Executive Director

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