Resident Support Group

A Resident Support Group (RSG) is: An independent self-led and self-determining group of families and friends of residents.
Motivation and Purpose: To promote and improve the quality of life for those who live in a nursing home.
Other names or titles for similar groups are: family councils; residents groups, relatives and friends groups, etc.

A RSG usually meets monthly at the nursing home; is run by relatives and friends or residents; has an advisor (usually a staff person at the nursing home) who assists the group but is not a member; and has a variety of activities.

RSG's may also be known as any of the following:

  • Family Council;
  • Residents and Relatives Group;
  • Family and Friends Group;
  • or Family Support Group. 

The name of the group may vary, but the intentions are similar.

Benefits of a Residents Support Group

For relatives and friends:
  • Offers ongoing support with strength drawn from shared experiences.
  • Provides an opportunity to express concerns and explore solutions as a group.
  • Builds communication with staff and creates a team environment.
  • Educates and informs members about long-term care topics, e.g. Residents’ Rights, the survey process, and problem resolution.
  • Give families a voice in decisions that affect them and their family members.
For residents:
  • Advances the quality of care for the benefit of all residents through teamwork.
  • Advocates on behalf of all residents.
  • Supports residents who do not have locally involved families or friends.
  • Provides a connection to a community outside the nursing home.
  • Plans group sponsored activities and events for residents.
  • Give residents a voice in decisions that affect them.
For the Nursing Home:
  • Builds two-way communication between the staff and group members.
  • Provides the staff with an advisory committee for new ideas on quality of life issues for residents.
  • Offers an opportunity to know families, friends, and residents.
  • Promotes staff appreciation and team interaction. 

 

Starting a Resident Support Group (RSG) in a nursing home can be an excellent way to voice concerns in an open forum. The larger the group, the greater the potential that the nursing home will pay attention to any concerns that are raised. Remember, these are all potential witnesses that can corroborate concerns or events.

It is also much easier to voice concerns when it isn't only you or your loved one up against the entire system. The nursing home may select a liaison staff member to respond to the group's concerns.

Keep a copy of the minutes from the meetings and what concerns you discuss. 

Purposes vary greatly from group to group, depending upon the interests and needs of group members. A general set of purposes should be agreed upon when a group is new and revised as the goals and interests of members change.

NOTE:  To maximise the effect of the resident support group, you should ensure that the group is able to conduct meetings with other residents/family members, and not have management overtake or organise the group on your behalf.  This defeats the purpose of meeting, and many residents family members may feel they are not able to speak as freely as possible.

Residents and Relatives:  Your Rights

The User Rights Principles 1997 made under the Aged Care Act 1997 includes a Charter of Residents' Rights and Responsibilities (inside Schedule 1, towards the end of the document). The Charter of Residents Rights and Responsibilities details the rights and responsibilities of all residents including personal, civil, legal and consumer rights. The Charter also outlines residents’ responsibilities in relation to other residents, staff and the residential aged care service community as a whole.  It states:

Each resident of a residential care service has the right to full and effective use of his or her personal, civil, legal and consumer rights

Click here to see the full Charter of Residents' Rights and Responsibilities

Each resident of a residential care service has the right:

  • to full and effective use of his or her personal, civil, legal and consumer rights;
  • to quality care appropriate to his or her needs;
  • to have access to information about his or her rights, care, accommodation and any other information that relates to the resident personally;
  • to complain and to take action to resolve disputes;
  • to be consulted on, and to choose to have input into, decisions about the living arrangements of the residential care service;
  • to have access to advocates and other avenues of redress;
  • to be free from reprisal, or a well-founded fear of reprisal, in any form for taking action to enforce his or her rights;
  • to organise, maintain, and participate in resident and relative support groups;
  • the home must provide a private meeting space for the residents and their family/friends/advocates;
  • to make recommendations regarding facility policies.

Strength in numbers: Get organised!

Relatives of nursing home residents have discovered there's strength in numbers. They have begun to organise more "family meetings", sometimes referred to as a Resident Support Group (RSG) at their nursing homes to advocate for better care.

"My mum taught me how to stand up and speak out, so it's only fitting that I now step in for her," says Dr J Duncan, who knew she had to do something after her elderly mother acquired unexplained bruising and horrific injuries at a nursing home.  Her mother's treatment was the last straw. Before that, she had discovered other problems that convinced her that some staff members weren't paying enough attention.

Other family members who have formed Resident Support Groups, give each other moral support, act as added sets of eyes and ears around the nursing home, and bring grievances to the facility's attention.

By presenting a united front, family members have persuaded nursing homes to respond more quickly to residents' call buttons, improve the meals and even hire more staff.  Family members are enjoying renewed attention nationwide because many of their newer leaders are baby boomers, whose generation is known for its activism.

Though some facility manager's may resist the Resident Support Group's at first, a growing number say they welcome the groups because they encourage family participation and accountability from the facility and staff.

Many families hesitate to bring up problems because they're afraid the nursing home staff will retaliate against their relatives. Others complain but find their grievances fall on deaf ears.   Advocates suggest that a Resident Support Group can add weight to a complaint.

How to organise a Resident Support Group (RSG):

  • Determine the need.  As few as two or three families can organise a group.
  • Contact interested family and friends to set a time for an initial meeting.
  • Meeting announcements can be posted on bulletin boards, or emailed to family members.
    Ask visitors of residents if they will join you in planning a Resident Support Group.
  • Approach the manager or designated staff person about sending an organisational meeting letter to family and friends. (Nursing homes must provide private meeting space for residents and their family members.)
  • Request to have an insert included in the monthly billing statement about starting a family and friends group.
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