Family council

Well, I have volunteered to try to lead a new family council at the Alz center. I didn’t really expect that to happen. The staff sent mailings out inviting family members to come in for meetings to discuss the possibility of establishing a family council. I was part of the last group to meet, and there were just four of us in attendance. Only about 15 people total showed up for four meetings. There are 100 residents at the center so, you know, not a lot of interest.

The social worker running the meeting gave us a brief summary of how the council might function. We would meet at the center. We can meet with or without a staff member present. We can collect complaints and relay them to the staff and administration and try to work toward resolutions. We could raise money, plan events, stuff like that, to improve the residents’ quality of life. My interest is in fostering better relationships between staff and families. For example, in this meeting, the administrator was present but I didn’t realize that was who she was. No introduction, no going around to say who we were and who our family members were. I am sure the staff is busy, but I think some sort of organized interaction between staff and families, especially when residents move in, would be helpful. Maybe some kind of orientation could be in place for new families – meeting certain staff members, receiving some basic information about the facility, things that are OK to do while visiting and things that aren’t safe. Stuff like that. The families of residents on the skilled side asked for a volunteer calendar so they could sign up for shifts. That is a great idea. There is interest in having a poster with photos and names of staff members. I think that would be a nice touch. And some family councils participate in featuring residents or staff in newsletters. I’d be totally into that.

The social worker and I stayed behind to talk some more about what should happen next. I am going to write a letter to the families, suggesting how things might get started and inviting others to be on an executive committee if they’re interested. She seems to think lots of families will be interested in using the council to convey complaints. Of course, she hears all sorts of things so she knows what she’s talking about. But I don’t come to this with a desire to get bogged down with complaints and nothing else. In fact, I don’t really have any serious complaints. I worry that families might not take to me if they are unhappy and they realize that I love this place. But I guess I will forge ahead and see how it goes.

I visited Mom after this meeting, which was last Thursday afternoon. And she seemed to be back to her normal self. She was lounging on a couch. No boyfriends in sight. I pulled up a chair and talked to her for awhile. She said, “It’s wonderful.” I hoped that meant she was glad to see me. She said my name several times, but not in a way that necessarily suggested that she knew I was Emily. She was in a calm and pleasant mood. I massaged her legs and arms a little bit, just to give her some good feelings that I hoped made her feel loved and safe. I didn’t stay long, but I was relieved to see her feeling so fine.

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2 comments so far

  1. Megan on

    What a great and necessary thing to have a family council. I hope to meet other caregivers like you interested in such things at my mom’s center, which under the present circumstances would have to happen outside the premises if we ever get it going.

    Like you said about your situation, I think my mom’s place also tends to think of this in terms of getting more complaints, so they hold their family meetings under tight vigil, being sure there’s always a staff member there who decides the topic ahead of time. Lots of need for control. I think they underestimate how much the complaints might decrease if families have a place to vent and then brainstorm creative solutions.

    I’ve requested meetings without staff or family-initiated gatherings and topics, but that’s beyond their comfort level right now. As a result, I’ve lost interest for the time being. I get sleepy listening to guest speakers telling me about the stages of dementia, how to prepare for the holidays, and other such fluff that’s tedious for any caregiver who’s done this a couple years or more.

    Kind of grumpy about this, as you can tell.
    Megan

  2. momsbrain on

    Megan, You deserve to be grumpy. As I understand it (but I haven’t really investigated it completely yet) there could be some law behind this, but it’s probably state by state. I would actually welcome at least one meeting per year or so that included a staff member so there would be back-and-forth in a timely way. But I do think we’ll mostly meet without a staff member to make families feel more free to talk. And I got the impression, at least from the social worker, that keeping staff out of it is FINE with them (one less thing to do). It will just be a matter of finding a private place to meet. I wonder if an ombud for the state could assist you in bringing together a meeting if you want one with other families. That place does sound like it’s full of control freaks. I’m sure that is the norm. The guy who founded my mom’s facility is not typical, I think.


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