Photo by Dreamstime

“The simple act of caring is heroic.”  ~ Edward Albert


                                                    NOTE: You an also read Dr. Mara’s blog on Medium.                                                      

As you may have read in prior blogs, or have heard me speak about on my podcast, my 94-year-old mom has now been living in a nursing home far from where I live for the past two years. From my experience of working in Long Term Care (LTC) communities, I’ve found that Family Councils can be a very powerful group to help to improve the quality of life for our loved ones residing in the communities, as well as provide support for family members. However, sometimes, Family Councils are seen as a thorn in the side of facility administrators. It takes effort to remain strong and persistent as a Family Council, while avoiding as much as possible having an adversarial relationship with the administration. The benefit of this effort is that much greater success toward the goal of greater quality of life for our loved ones.

I’ve had discussions with some of my radio show guests about the benefits of Family Councils and how to start one, if there is not one already formed in your loved one’s community, and I’ve written blogs about it, as well. I recently started a Virtual Family Council for my mom’s community. We are heading into our sixth monthly meeting with a very strong and passionate group of family members, and we’ve already had some successes in making changes in the community. For our next Zoom meeting, we’ve invited the administrator in charge of operations and the acting-Director of Nursing to join us.

I feel privileged to have the opportunity to utilize my 30+ years of experience with this population and many of those years working in such facilities, as well as my life-long community activism, in order to organize a group that can really make a difference in improving the quality of life for my own mom and her neighbors within the community.

Below is an excerpt of a letter that I’ve written, with input from the Family Council members, addressed to our invited guests for the next meeting. In it, I describe our mission and how we see our role as a creating a team effort to join forces with the administration to create the best possible life for the residents. I hope this is of help to any family member of a LTC resident in motivating you to organize a Family Council and to give you a template of a mission and some actions to take in that role.

“We first want to say that we very much appreciate everything that you and all who work at ____ do for our loved ones. And we appreciate your responsiveness to our requests that we’ve already made in our e-mails to you. We also appreciate your attendance to our upcoming Zoom meeting for a more in-depth dialogue about some of our requests.

We, as a Family Council, want to share our mission and how this meeting with you is in alignment with this mission. We see care of our loved ones as a team effort. We, as essential people in our loved one’s lives, often witness things that happen and are told about things that have happened by our loved ones or their neighbors that the administration, and those leading the various departments, might not see or know about. We are often right there, “boots on the ground,” so to speak. So, we hope that the administration and department heads can see us as the eyes and ears, bringing up areas where there is room for improvement, so that we can help to increase the quality of life for, not only the residents who are our own loved ones, but for all residents who live in this community.

There is always room for improvement, and we are passionate about helping to achieve that, as we all feel that we have skin in the game. Since we are close to the residents, but are not employees, we can often come up with different ideas for solutions to resolve issues, by seeing things from outside the box. And the reality is that Family Councils can point out concerns to be addressed for better Health Department survey results and better family and resident satisfaction ratings. We believe that we are all working toward the same goal, for the residents to enjoy their Golden Years to the highest level achievable.

We will continue to persevere in this mission, and we hope that we can do this within an atmosphere of trust and give-and-take with those in charge, even if we sometimes bring up difficult issues that we, as family, find to be important.

So, in that spirit, we’ve created the attached agenda for our meeting so that you can have a chance to read it and so that we are all on the same page, working together fairly. We also invite you to add anything else to the agenda for discussion during our meeting. Please e-mail any of those topics back and we’ll gladly add them to our agenda.

We are also attaching a Federal regulation pertaining to Family Councils, as that is one of the items we want to work with you about and it’s one that is on our agenda.

We look forward to meeting with you soon!”

There are many things about the lives of our loved ones residing in long-term care that we don’t have any control over, such as the reason they have had to move into a LTC community in the first place, the health issues that they might have to deal with along the way, or the ageist treatment they might encounter within long-term care, and, even the healthcare system, in general. Advocating for the best care of our loved ones with the help of a Family Council can give us a feeling of empowerment in a broader situation that is often extremely challenging.

Wishing you luck and strength along your journey as an essential person in your loved one’s life!


You can read similar blogs by Dr. Mara and listen to her internet radio show. Now also on Apple Podcasts.  Check out Dr. Mara’s internationally best-selling book, The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age, now available on Audible!   And be sure to follow her on Facebook!



The Passionate Life
NOW available on Audible