October is Speak Out Against Elder Abuse Month

Residents’ Rights Month

Residents Rights Month is the perfect time to reflect upon the overall care and treatment of our loved ones in Nursing Homes. We must remember the difficult road we undertook when choosing a qualified facility to oversee and keep safe our parents. The rights that they have are not any different from the same rights they had the day before they entered the facility. The right to receive unopened mail, to practice their religion of choice, to receive visitors, to choose a physician they are comfortable with, to be informed of all care and treatment, and to receive such care in a dignified manner, while keeping our loved ones safe. These are all rights among many others that nursing homes are charged with providing on a daily basis. The right to a quiet and peaceful environment is equally important and often times one of the most overlooked by most nursing homes. When I was a Vice President of a Nursing Home company here in Illinois, I used to implore are Administrators to ensure the residents were all treated as if they were the only person in the whole facility. Talking to residents and treating them with respect; offering a quiet and enjoyable dining experience, rather than a room filled with loud music because that’s what the aides want to hear, is not an attitude of embracing residents rights.

Take time this month to bring your loved ones flowers and celebrate their lives, their memories, your memories of the love they gave you growing up. Take time to celebrate the love they have for you and those special moments you spent together: birthdays, graduations, first job celebrations, marriages, the birth of grandchildren. This is the time to ensure your loved one is receiving the care they deserve.
Residents’ Rights Month is an annual event designated by the Consumer Voice and is celebrated in October to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, sub acute units, assisted living, board and care and retirement communities. It is a time for celebration and recognition offering an opportunity for every facility to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident. The theme for Residents’ Rights Month 2013 is, “Speak Out Against Elder Abuse!” with the goal of encouraging residents and others to be educated about and speak out against elder abuse.

Residents Rights: An Overview

Residents’ Rights are guaranteed by the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination.  Nursing homes must meet federal residents’ rights requirements if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid. Some states have residents’ rights in state law or regulation for nursing homes, licensed assisted living, adult care homes, and other board and care facilities. A person living in a long-term care facility maintains the same rights as an individual in the larger community

Residents’ Rights Guarantee Quality of Life

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law requires each nursing home to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life of each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination. All nursing homes are required “to provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care that is initially prepared, with participation, to the extent practicable, of the resident, the resident’s family, or legal representative.” This means a resident should not decline in health or well-being as a result of the way a nursing facility provides care.

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law protects the following rights of nursing home residents:

The Right to Be Fully Informed of…

  • Available services and the charges for each service
  • Facility rules and regulations, including a written copy of  resident rights
  • Address and telephone number of the State Ombudsman and state survey agency
  • State survey reports and the nursing home’s plan of correction
  • Advance plans of a change in rooms or roommates
  • Assistance if a sensory impairment exists
  • Residents have a right to receive information in a language they understand (Spanish, Braille, etc.)

Right to Complain

  • Present grievances to staff or any other person, without fear of reprisal and with prompt efforts by the facility to resolve those grievances
  • To complain to the ombudsman program
  • To file a complaint with the state survey and certification agency

Right to Participate in One’s Own Care

  • Receive adequate and appropriate care
  • Be informed of all changes in medical condition
  • Participate in their own assessment, careplanning, treatment, and discharge
  • Refuse medication and treatment
  • Refuse chemical and physical restraints
  • Review one’s medical record
  • Be free from charge for services covered by Medicaid or Medicare

Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

  • Private and unrestricted communication with any person of their choice
  • During treatment and care of one’s personal needs
  • Regarding medical, personal, or financial affairs

Rights During Transfers and Discharges

  • Remain in the nursing facility unless a transfer or discharge:
    • (a) is necessary to meet the resident’s welfare;
    • (b) is appropriate because the resident’s health has improved and s/he no longer requires nursing home care;
    • (c) is needed to protect the health and safety of other residents or staff;
    • (d) is required because the resident has failed, after reasonable notice, to pay the facility charge for an item or service provided at the resident’s request
  • Receive thirty-day notice of transfer or discharge which includes the reason, effective date, location to which the resident is transferred or discharged, the right to appeal, and the name, address, and telephone number of the state long-term care ombudsman
  • Safe transfer or discharge through sufficient preparation by the nursing home

Right to Dignity, Respect, and Freedom

  • To be treated with consideration, respect, and dignity
  • To be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints
  • To self-determination
  • Security of possessions

Right to Visits

  • By a resident’s personal physician and representatives from the state survey agency and ombudsman programs
  • By relatives, friends, and others of the residents’ choosing
  • By organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services
  • Residents have the right to refuse visitors

Right to Make Independent Choices

  • Make personal decisions, such as what to wear and how to spend free time
  • Reasonable accommodation of one’s needs and preferences
  • Choose a physician
  • Participate in community activities, both inside and outside the nursing home
  • Organize and participate in a Resident Council
  • Manage one’s own financial affairs