We have a Family Council starting in our facility. What is the facility’s responsibility to facilitate a successful Family Council?




Requirements for Family Councils in Medicare and Medicaid Certified Facilities

Medicare and Medicaid certified facilities are required to support family councils by providing a meeting space, cooperating with council activities, and responding to their concerns. Nursing facilities must appoint a staff advisor or liaison to the family council, although staff and administrators can only attend council meetings by invitation.

While federal law specifically mentions the “families” of residents, close friends of residents are also encouraged to actively participate in family councils.

The federal law includes the following requirements that relate to facilities with regard to family councils:

      • A resident’s family has the right to meet in the facility with the families of other residents in the facility.
      • The facility must provide a family group, if one exists, with private space.
      • Staff or visitors may attend meetings at the group’s invitation.
      • The facility must provide a designated staff person responsible for providing assistance and responding to written requests that result from group meetings.
      • When a family group exists, the facility must listen to the views and act upon the grievances and recommendations of residents and families concerning proposed policy and operational decisions affecting resident care and life in the facility.

142 CFR sec.483.15(c); Public Law 100-203, Social Security Act

The Benefits of a Family Council

Enhancing Communication and Addressing Concerns:

      • Proactive Problem Solving: Family councils provide administration and staff with valuable insights into families’ concerns about resident care, enabling timely and appropriate responses to potential issues.
      • Internal Resolution: By identifying and addressing problems internally, the facility can prevent families from seeking assistance from external agencies such as survey agencies or ombudsman programs.

Creative and Honest Feedback:

      • Innovative Solutions: Family councils can offer creative solutions to challenges, contributing to more effective problem-solving.
      • Quality Improvement: Honest feedback from family councils supports ongoing quality improvement efforts, ensuring the facility continuously enhances its services.

Advocacy and Requests for Change:

      • Advocating for Change: Family councils provide a platform for making requests for changes within the facility to boards and management companies. They can advocate for changes that staff may support but find challenging to get approved.
      • Streamlined Communication: By addressing concerns collectively, family councils prevent staff from being overwhelmed by a flood of individual complaints.

Policy and Program Recommendations:

      • Beneficial Recommendations: Family councils offer recommendations for programs or policies that benefit residents, drawing from their unique perspectives and experiences.
      • Smooth Policy Implementation: Involving families in policy development increases the likelihood of successful implementation and positive impact on residents.

Resource Identification and Family Engagement:

      • Enhancing Resources: Family councils can identify external resources that enhance residents’ lives and improve facility operations.
      • Increased Involvement: Family councils foster a greater willingness among families to contribute their time and energy, making the facility a better place for residents.

Improved Resident Care:

      • Better Outcomes: The collaboration between family councils and staff ultimately results in improved care for residents, ensuring their well-being and satisfaction.

Establishing a Family Council marks a significant step towards fostering a collaborative environment where family members and close friends of residents can actively participate in enhancing the quality of care and life. The federal requirements for Medicare and Medicaid certified facilities set clear guidelines to support the effective functioning of these councils, ensuring that they have the necessary space, cooperation, and communication channels.



Brandy Hayes RN, RAC-CT, RAC-CTA
Clinical Consultant

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