Get Involved!

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There are many ways to get involved and improve long term care.

Choose an option from the list below, or find your local ombudsman and ask how you can help.





Resident Councils

A resident council is a group of residents within a nursing home or assisted living facility who organize in order to have a voice in shaping the practices of the home that affect the daily life of residents. These resident groups are open to all residents who wish to participate and usually meet on a regular basis in the facility. There is often a designated staff person who works with the resident council president to assist with setting up meetings.

Resident councils can be an important means for residents to solve problems and make improvements. Sometimes it is helpful to present a problem as a group rather than as an individual resident. Resident councils have the right to meet privately without staff present or to invite certain staff persons to attend if they desire. A nursing home or assisted living facility should encourage and support the activities of a resident council, and should welcome resident input into how the home provides care and services to residents.

Click to Open or CloseResident Councils in Nursing Homes

Federal law gives residents of any nursing home that accepts Medicare and/or Medicaid the right to organize and meet privately on a regular basis as a “resident council”. The law also requires the nursing home to provide a meeting space, cooperate with the council’s activities, and respond to the group’s concerns. Nursing homes must appoint a staff adviser or liaison to the resident council, however, staff and administrators have access to resident council meetings only by invitation from the resident council.

Federal law states:

  • A resident has the right to organize and participate in resident groups in the facility.
  • The facility must provide a resident group, if one exists, with private meeting 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 resident 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.

42 CFR sec.483.15(c)

Helpful Site:

Click to Open or CloseResident Councils in Assisted Living Facilities

Virginia state law requires assisted living facilities to allow and to encourage the formation of resident councils. Assisted living facilities must assist residents in establishing a resident council, if one does not already exist. The law states that the purposes of the resident council are as follows:

  • Work with the administration in improving the quality of life for all residents;
  • Discuss the services offered by the facility and make recommendations for resolution of identified problems or concerns; and
  • Perform other functions as determined by the council.

Virginia law also gives resident councils in assisted living facilities the right to extend membership to family members, advocates, friends, and others as they wish. Further more, it also provides the right of resident councils to hold at least part of each meeting in private without the presence of any facility personnel in order to promote a free exchange of ideas.

In addition, the law specifies how a facility must assist residents in maintaining a resident council, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Scheduling regular meetings;
  • Providing space for meetings;
  • Posting notice for meetings;
  • Providing assistance in attending meetings for those residents who request it; and
  • Preparing written reports of meetings for dissemination to all residents.

Other requirements set in state law include:

  • Facilities must encourage residents to attend meetings, but may not require attendance; and
  • If no resident councils exists, the facility must explain to residents the general purpose of a resident council and remind them yearly that they may establish a resident council and that the facility will assist in its formation and maintenance.

Standards of Licensed Assisted Living Facilities
22 VAC 40-72-810. Resident Councils

Family Councils

A family council is a group of family members and friends of residents of a nursing home or assisted living facility who join together to discuss matters that affect the quality of care and services and quality of life of residents. Family councils enable family and friends of residents to address the needs and concerns of residents, especially those who cannot speak for themselves.

Family councils can be a collective voice providing recognition for what is going well and seeking improvement where needed. Some family councils also plan special events and participate in other activities improve the lives of residents. Every family is council is unique due to the participants’ differences and the facility’s level of support and responsiveness

Click to Open or CloseFamily Councils in Nursing Homes

Federal law gives family members of nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid the right to form as a group (a “family council”) and hold regular private meetings. Further more, the nursing home must provide a meeting space, cooperate with the council’s activities, and respond to the group’s concerns. Nursing homes must appoint a staff advisor or liaison to the family council, but staff and administrators have access to council meetings only by invitation. While the federal law specifically references “families” of residents, close friends of residents can and should be encouraged to play an active role in family councils, too.

Federal law states:

  • 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.

42 CFR sec.483.15(c)

Consumer Voice's Family Council Project

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care’s Family Councils for Quality Long Term Care: Support, Strengthen and Empower project, funded by the Frances Lane Memorial Family Council Fund of the Edward H. Lane Foundation, works with independent Virginia family councils by providing funding in the form of mini-grants ($250 - $1000 each) directly to independent family councils for the purpose of funding council activities. It also supports family councils nationwide by providing opportunities to participate in educational conferences calls, have access to a webpage, listserv and mailings with information and resources related to family council advocacy. More information...

Relevant Documents and Sites

Click to Open or CloseFamily Councils in Assisted Living Facilities

Many assisted living facilities encourage the establishment of family councils as a way to involve family members of residents and to preemptively problem solve. Virginia law does not provide specific rights to family councils in assisted living facilities. It does say a resident council may extend its membership to family members, advocates, friends, and others. If your loved one’s assisted living facility does not have a family council, talk to the facility administrator about starting one. Some of the materials for family councils in nursing homes may be helpful to consider for ideas for family councils in assisted living facilities.

Helpful Site

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer Ombudsman opportunities are available in some areas. If you are interested in working to improve the quality of life for long term care residents through working as a Volunteer Ombudsman in a facility or supporting the Program through assisting with office work, please contact your local Ombudsman.

Virginia Culture Change Coalition

The Virginia Culture Change Coalition (VCCC) is a coalition whose goal is to foster improved and meaningful quality of life for Virginia’s elders in multiple care settings. The coalition has identified long-term care as its initial focus in order to support the national and statewide nursing home quality initiatives.