If there is not an existing council, you will need to gauge interest and promote enthusiasm among the residents and/or families at the care home. After you have gathered information about what a council is, its benefits and some preliminary ideas about goals, you can connect with interested people in a number of ways.
- Work with long-term care (LTC) staff to coordinate the initial meeting
- Look to other LTC homes to see if they have councils and what has worked for them
- Create some printed material that outlines the benefits of a council and a convenient date for an informal meet and greet. Use existing newsletters or other existing mechanisms to advertise your initial meeting
- Become a presence at the LTC home and get to know residents, their families, friends and their concerns
- Connect with LTC staff, ask for help in getting the message to other families by distributing/posting printed materials etc
- Attend social events at the facility and invite people personally to an initial information meeting
- Ask people about their wish lists for the LTC home to stimulate conversation about possible council focus and activities
- Conduct a survey to determine people’s concerns and their interest/ability in participating in a council
Once a council is established it is important to maintain the momentum. Groups need a common purpose, structure, and a way to determine success. People volunteer for activities that are meaningful to them and their community and continue to participate when they feel their efforts have made a difference.
- Agree upon common goals and develop a purpose statement for the group
- Put a leadership structure in place such as a chair, co-chair or committee
- Develop simple bylaws and/or terms of reference for the group
- Establish a way for members to communicate with each other and the group as a whole; a newsletter, phone tree, internet message board etc
- Communicate with LTC staff and determine who will be the staff liaison and what that involves
- Ensure there is an agreed upon way to run meetings and an agenda that includes "next steps"
- From your group's common goals, determine action items and assign individuals or task groups to those actions
- Create time on the agenda for reporting progress on projects/action items and to report and celebrate successes