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New Alberta Law Set to Empower Seniors Living in Long-term Care Facilities

A new Alberta law titled The Resident and Family Councils Act, in effect as of Apr. 1, 2018, will give seniors living in long-term care and licensed supportive living facilities the right to establish self-governing resident and family councils.

The preamble of this legislation identifies its purpose: “Whereas the Government of Alberta recognizes that a residential facility is the home of its residents, and therefore the residents should be involved in matters that affect their daily lives.”

The Act details the objectives of a resident and family council as providing a forum for discussing ways to maintain and enhance quality of life, requests, concerns and proposed solutions and providing a platform for the presentation of collected information to the facility operator or owner. The council also provides a positive space for the development of new projects and a “network of support and encouragement for the residents and their families.”

Care facilities and staff are obligated by this law to inform residents and their caregivers of their right to form a council and help to accommodate council meetings. Operators are also required to provide representation at council meetings, to document discussions, to respond to council requests and concerns and to share information gathered and inspection findings. Compliance with the Act will be monitored by Alberta Health.

Although operators of long-term care facilities in Alberta will now be obliged to “consult with all resident and family councils in the residential facility regarding the food, services and social and leisure activities provided or made available to the residents,” a recent news story suggests that the legislation should go further by giving seniors a protected voice on matters related to staff numbers and the way in which care is provided.

The Canadian Medical Association is recommending that the government invest in residential care facilities to meet the needs of seniors who cannot be cared for in their homes. Legislation like The Resident and Family Council Act, drafted with the intention of giving a voice to seniors in long-term care and their caregivers, may prove to be another useful tool for identifying the care needs of current and future residents.