Friends and Family Council

Friends and Family Council members in attendance at the April 22 meeting at Homestead Rehabilitation and Living Center in Deer River were, from the left in back, Darlene Gullickson, Tiemi Erickson, Gwen Black, Winnie Olson, Delores Bunker and Kathy Johnson. Seated in front are Eleanor Barrett, on the left, and Margaret Hynek. Photo by Louise H. McGregor
Friends and Family Council members in attendance at the April 22 meeting at Homestead Rehabilitation and Living Center in Deer River were, from the left in back, Darlene Gullickson, Tiemi Erickson, Gwen Black, Winnie Olson, Delores Bunker and Kathy Johnson. Seated in front are Eleanor Barrett, on the left, and Margaret Hynek. Photo by Louise H. McGregor

by Louise H. McGregor, staff writer

There are several volunteer comprised organizations in the Deer River area that residents can reach out to for help in times of need.

And, some of those organizations, such as the Deer River Lions Club, the Avenue of Pines Lions Club, the DRHC Volunteers and the several military veterans organizations headquartered in the Deer River Vets Club are well known.

But, not much has been heard about the Friends and Family Council that meets monthly at the Deer River Homestead Living and Rehabilitation Center.

The current membership roster lists the following individuals as the organization’s officers; President Eleanor Barrett (interim, serving out Lily Gullickson’s term), Vice President Marilyn Lundeen, Secretary Winnie Olson and Treasurer Delores Bunker.

New and established members in this organization are Gwen Black, Tiemi Ericson, Darlene Gullickson, Lily Gullickson, Kathy Johnson, William Johnson, Gail Zitka and Honorary Member Margaret Hynek.

“I believe,” said Barrett. “that we first organized this Friends and Family Council in 1994 or 1995. There had been a council in existence a few years before that, but it seemed to just fade out of existence. We weren’t very active at first, because we didn’t have a regular meeting place and it was sometimes very difficult to get together.”

According to the Care Watchers website, “The family council is an advocate for residents’ rights and quality care. The family council provides a vehicle for family members and friends to voice their concerns and request improvements for all residents.

“Facilities certified for Medicare and Medicaid must provide a meeting space, cooperate with the council’s activities, and respond to the group’s concerns. 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 references ‘families’ of residents, close friends of residents also can and should be encouraged to play an active role in family councils.”

Barrett agreed with this information. She said, “The purpose of the Friends and Family Council is to insure quality of life and care for our loved ones and give families and other caregivers a voice in the decisions that affect them. Furthermore, the motto of Friends and Family Council goes on to say that we need to share ideas, inform and educate, act on issues and sponsor activities.”

The Minnesota Department of Health Information Bulletin 04-14 states that it is the obligation of nursing homes and boarding care homes to establish resident and family councils.

“The state requires that the facilities have or try to have a council for their residents,” said Barrett. “If they do try, and there are less than three people willing to be in the council, then they don’t have to, but they have to continue to make that effort periodically, once a year, to see if there are enough people or families to get a council going.”

Getting enough people interested in starting a Friends and Family Council in Deer River was not a problem. “We had a good number of volunteers,” said Barrett, “and we have been able to keep it going since then. But, we would like to expand our membership listing.”

New members are good for any organization, as with them they bring new energies and ideas.

The monthly meetings, held on the fourth Tuesday of the month, at Homestead, in the room that Olson refers to as the “porch,” gives the group an opportunity to share these ideas.

For, the Deer River Friends and Family Council not only sees to the needs of Homestead’s residents, they have extended their helping arm out to others, such as the Golden Age Club’s effort to raise funds for a new center.

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