Are You or Someone You Care About in Long-Term Care? If So, You Should Know that October Is Residents’ Rights Month

Residents’ Rights Month, which originated as Residents’ Rights Week in 1981, is intended to shine a light on the freedom, privacy and conditions of life for those living in all types of long-term care facilities.

The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 guarantees nursing home residents their individual rights, including but not limited to individualized care, respect, dignity, the right to visitation, the right to privacy, the right to complain and the right to make independent choices. While resident’s’ rights apply every day of the year, having a month devoted to emphasizing those rights — and educating anyone with an interest in long-term care – makes for a more informed and considerate long-term care community.

Residents, their families and each facility’s management and staff should fully understand that that those in long-term care retain their basic rights as individuals; they’re free to voice their concerns about their treatment and living conditions and they must be heard.

Care providers can usually adjust certain procedures to make an individual’s life happier. Residents may, for example, choose when they want to go to sleep and wake up. They can have private conversations. They can choose to have an alternative menu item or they can decide what time to have a bath. It’s not always that the facilities are denying rights, but that residents aren’t aware of their privileges. This is where the Long-Term Ombudsman program of United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) Area Agency on Aging can step in to help.

What is an Ombudsman? It’s a person who advocates for residents of nursing homes, boarding homes and assisted-living facilities. UWCA’s Ombudsmen visit facilities in Jefferson County every month to educate, and check in with, residents. If a resident needs an advocate in his or her corner (concerning a policy issue or the quality of care at the facility), the resident or a loved one can call 1-800-AGE-LINE. An Ombudsman will then investigate and work to correct the issue, while respecting the concerned party’s confidentiality.

To learn more about what this program is and how it can help you or a loved one, call 1-800-AGE-LINE or visit our website.