October is Residents' Rights Month

Across the country, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities along with family members, ombudsmen, citizen advocates, facility staff and others will honor the individual rights of long-term care residents by celebrating Residents’ Rights Month. Residents’ Rights Month is an annual event held in October by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (The Consumer Voice) to celebrate and focus on awareness of dignity, respect and the value of long-term care residents.

The theme for Residents' Rights Month 2016 is "My Vote Matters" with the goals of educating the community about residents' rights to vote and participate in the political process. “We want people to recognize that being a resident in a nursing home doesn’t have to mean that you can’t participate in the political process,” said Lori Smetanka, Executive Director of the Consumer Voice. “We hope to facilitate ways for residents to use their voice and their vote and take part in the election this fall.”

The Nursing Home Reform Law, passed in 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. Residents who have made their home in other types of facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living centers, adult care homes and other long-term care facilities, maintain their rights as U.S. Citizens.

Residents’ Rights Month raises awareness about these rights and pays tribute to the unique contributions of long-term residents.

Barbara Boone McGinnis, a Hendersonville-based elder law attorney whose clients include many residents of long-term care facilities, agrees that public awareness of residents’ rights is important. “By focusing on their rights and listening to residents’ voices, we honor their lives and experiences,” said McGinnis. “The ultimate goal is to empower residents with individualized care that is focused on each person’s needs and preferences.”

The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program has worked for more than 30 years to promote residents’ rights. More than 8,000 volunteers and 1,000 paid staff are advocates for residents in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. Authorized under the Older Americans Act and administered by the Administration on Aging, the program also provides information on how to find a facility, conducts community education sessions, and supports residents, their families and the public with one-on-one consultation regarding long-term care.

The Mid-Cumberland Human Resources Agency in Gallatin houses the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program serving residents in Middle Tennessee. For more information about Residents’ Rights Month, visit http://theconsumervoice.org/events/residents-rights-month-2016.

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