3 surprising reasons to strengthen your resident council

Dr. Eleanor Barbera
Dr. Eleanor Barbera

When it comes to resident councils, it's often thought that an active resident council might seem good in theory, but that it's offset by the amount of staff time required to devote to the process and concern that something written in the meeting notes will trigger an inquiry by state surveyors.

This line of reasoning, while raising legitimate concerns that need to be managed, gives short shrift to the benefits of a strong resident council.

Resident councils can be awesome for your facility and here's why:

1. Residents tell it like it is: You know those things your staff members see but don't mention because they don't want to rock the boat? Residents are far more likely to speak up than the average staff member because they're not worried about losing their jobs.

Some of them are like my Aunt Bevy, who used to tell me, “Eleanor, I can say what I want. I'm an old lady.” Tap into this important source of info and find out what's really working, and not, in your facility.

Residents will tell you what you need to know to make your facility shine enough to attract more residents.

2. Free labor: I hate to be so crass about it but let's face it: While everyone else is running around your organization like lunatics because they're short-staffed, your residents are sitting around hoping for something interesting to do. We have a pool of diverse, experienced, motivated and often bored individuals yearning to be put to good use.

Sure, they'll need some help to overcome their physical limitations, but working together they can effectively address many seemingly intractable problems. Maybe they could raise money to contribute toward an herb garden for the patio or start a welcoming committee to reduce the isolation of new residents. Ask them what they want to do – it might be exactly what's needed to revitalize demoralized staff members and energize your institution.

3. A marketing goldmine: That herb garden I mentioned? That's going to brighten the faces of new prospects touring your establishment. And when you tell them it was conceived of and designed by residents? That's exactly the kind of place people want to be a part of – a setting where Mom or Dad can be an active part of the community despite their health challenges.

Write about it on your website, shout it from the rooftops and see what else your resident council will come up with to make you look good.

If your resident council is languishing or lackluster, rather than lively and constructive, your local ombudsman can help get things back on track. Contact The National Consumer Voice for more information. Tell them Dr. El sent you.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., author of The Savvy Resident's Guide, is a 2014 Award of Excellence winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is the Gold Medalist in the Blog-How To/Tips/Service category of the 2014 American Society of Business Publication Editors Midwest Regional competition. A speaker and consultant with nearly 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care, she maintains her own award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com.

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