Enhancing Care, Enhancing Life: Looking closer at Long-Term Care Councils

Enhancing Care, Enhancing Life - Long-Term Care Councils
Click here to download Enhancing Care, Enhancing Life.

Stephanie Hylmar 

In Ontario, more than 620 long-term care homes provide round-the-clock nursing, medical, social and personal care for more than 78,000 residents at any one time. In recent years, long-term care homes have been increasing their efforts to work collaboratively with system partners, staff, residents and families to enhance the quality of care and quality of life for their communities.

One of the patient engagement models used to do this is Residents Councils and Family Councils. However, due to being mandated under the Long-Term Care Homes Act (2007), these Long-Term Care Councils have caused some to question their authenticity and contribution.

Spurred on by our work on patient and family advisory councils in hospital settings, the Foundation felt it was time to learn more about these councils and their impact on long-term care home life.

After surveying over 2,500 long-term care residents, family members, council staff assistants and administrators, the Foundation found that these councils are perceived positively by their communities and are seen as having real impacts as reported in Enhancing  Care, Enhancing Life.

Specifically, four key findings emerged from the surveys:

  • Enhancing the quality of life, enhancing the quality of care, and information sharing we identified as the three main roles councils played;
  • Residents and family members participating on councils have a much clearer understanding of what the councils accomplish and believe that they fulfil their roles;
  • Despite councils being mandated by the provincial government, council staff assistants and administrators see the value, importance and impact of having a council; and
  • Improvements in relationships are mainly seen between residents and staff.

These four key findings are an overview of some of the important big picture matters that councils address and deal with. These findings are also significant because no other independent or arms-length organization has reviewed the state of these councils in such detail.

Long-Term Care CouncilsHowever, resident’s councils and family councils may only be an initial step in the long-term care sector’s patient- and family-centred journey.  In Insights into Quality Improvement: Long-Term Care, Health Quality Ontario (HQO) suggests that truly listening to residents and families means “moving beyond the existing resident and family councils to more co-leadership and participation in quality improvement activities” (pg. 29, HQO, 2016). Furthermore, a key component of continuous quality improvement is incorporating the “voice of the customer”—i.e. residents and families (HQO, 2016). Knowing the degree to which councils are able to provide this voice, and where successes and pitfalls lie, can inform others on how to optimize their councils and experiences for residents and family members.

The findings from Enhancing Care, Enhancing Life and HQO’s recent report set the tone for the next phase of our Long-Term Care Resident Councils and Family Councils project.

Through a series of five case studies with long-term care homes from across Ontario, the Foundation will address a number of key questions that emerged from the surveys such as: why are councils fundraising, how are councils fundraising, what does quality look like, and how do councils contribute to quality improvement.  Selected from an open call to the sector, homes being featured in the case studies are currently participating on a voluntary basis through one-on-one interviewing and focus groups.

Although this work won’t be completed until Spring 2017, be sure to learn more about Residents’ Councils and Family Councils in Ontario by downloading Enhancing Care Enhancing Life today: https://changefoundation.ca/enhancing-care-long-term-care-report/.

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