To the editor of THE EAGLE:
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.
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.
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.
Advocates for residents' rights -- where do you go for help if you're concerned a facility is not guaranteeing the rights of residents? Contact your local or state long-term care ombudsman. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is required by federal law to promote and protect the rights of residents in licensed long-term care facilities. Elder Services of Berkshire County, Ombudsman Program is a local program and can be reached at (413) 499-0524. For a comprehensive list of resident's rights visit, www.theconsumervoice.org/resident/nursinghome/residents-rights#rights
The writer is Ombudsman Program manager, Elder Services of Berkshire County.