The movement to raise awareness of nursing home resident rights continues to gather momentum. It has led to significant initiatives to reform and improve state legislation, as well as raised public consumer awareness about what to look for and what to avoid in choosing a nursing home.
The Consumer Voice is a public interest consumer advocacy group that works diligently on these issues. Consistent with its efforts, the group just recently announced that later this year, October 2014 will be celebrated as Residents’ Rights Month. Residents’ Rights Month occurs each year and is meant to “honor residents living in all long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, sub acute units, assisted living, board and care and retirement communities.”
Residents’ Rights Month has an important and unique history that dates back to the early 1980s, when it first began as “Residents’ Rights Week” at the Consumer Voice annual meeting. One of their original victories was getting the U.S. Congress to declare Residents’ Rights Day through a congressional resolution. The celebration also took on greater meaning after the passage of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law that sought to improve the quality of life, care and the general rights of nursing home residents. In 2011, it expanded to a full month, clearly evidencing the strength of this movement.
Much of the efforts of Consumer Voice in celebrating this month is to show support to the individuals and groups that fight for the rights of nursing home residents and their families. These include staffers of the facilities that work hard to ensure residents receive adequate quality of care, as well as those staffers who speak up and do the right thing when the quality of care is substandard. This month also honors the family members of patients themselves who do the hard work to vet nursing home facilities for loved ones, and to fight hard in court when their loved ones unfortunately suffer abuse and neglect. Furthermore, this month celebrates citizens in general who advocate for nursing home patients’ rights, as well as the ombudsmen of facilities and government health agencies that oversee how nursing homes meet the statutory and regulatory guidelines.
As part of this celebration, Consumer Voice puts together a collection of very helpful information that can be found at its Residents’ Rights Month web page. It also has instituted the Resident’s Voice Challenge, which gives nursing home residents nationwide the opportunity to present their own ideas about how to improve nursing homes. They can discuss what they believe to be sufficient staffing in homes such that residents get appropriate attention. They can also discuss what makes a nursing staffer, like a nurse or assistant, a quality staffer, such as where they go out of their way or never cease to miss a scheduled time to assist with something important, like providing medication. They can also discuss negatives about nursing home staffers, and how best these issues can be resolved or improved upon. According to the web page, participants can share their thoughts either verbally or in writing, and are encouraged to be open about their thoughts. Residents’ Rights Month thus provides an opportunity for different people from different perspectives to provide input and learn more about what can be done to make nursing home and long-term facilities better places to live and be well.
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