The Rights of Family Councils

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act guarantees the families of nursing home residents a number of important rights. Key among these rights is the right to form and hold regular private meetings of an organized group called a family council.

Facilities in the Medicare and Medicaid programs must provide a meeting space, cooperate with the council's activities, and respond to the group's concerns. Although nursing facilities must appoint a staff advisor or liaison to the family council, staff and administrators have access to council meetings only by invitation.

While the federal law specifically speaks of "families" of residents, close friends of residents can and should be encouraged to play an active role in family councils, too.

Specifically, the federal law includes the following requirements on family councils:

  • The family council can meet where it chooses. If the council wants, it must be given a private meeting room in the nursing home during mutually agreed-upon hours. 
  • The nursing home facility shall provide a designated staff person to provide assistance and answer written requests that result from family council meetings. 
  • The nursing home shall listen to the views and act upon the grievances and recommendations of residents and families. 
  • Staff or visitors may attend family council meetings only at the group's invitation. 
  • A home may not prohibit the formation of a family council when requested by a member of the resident's family or the resident's representative.

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