A Residents' Support Group is an independent self-led and self-determining group of families and friends of residents. It's motivation and purpose is to promote and improve the quality of life for those who live in a nursing home.
A support group usually meets monthly at the nursing home; is run by relatives and friends or residents. It may also have access to a staff member at the nursing home, who assists the group but importantly, is not a member.
The name of the group may vary, but the intentions are similar. Resident's Support Groups may also be known as any of the following:
- Family Council;
- Residents and Relatives Group;
- Family and Friends Group;
- or Family Support Group.
Care recipients' rights - residential care
The Aged Care Act 1997 states that all facilities must have a Charter of Care Recipients' Rights and Responsibilities - Residential Care, which detail the rights and responsibilities of all residents including personal, civil, legal and consumer rights. The Charter also outlines care recipients' responsibilities in relation to other residents and staff.
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.
- 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's Support Group 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 help to 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.
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.
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.
Independence of Resident Support Groups are essential.
Strength in numbers: Get organised!
Relatives of nursing home residents have discovered strength in numbers. They have begun to organise more "family meetings" at their nursing homes to advocate for better care.
Other family members who have formed 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 ability to speak out.
Though some facility manager's may resist the Resident Support Group's at first, a supportive nursing home and environment will 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's Support Group
- 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's 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.
- Keep a copy of the minutes from the meetings and what concerns you discuss.