Commentary: Take note of long-term care residents’ rights

By Lisa Furber and Margaret Bailey

October is National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices many long-term care (LTC) residents have made to better our community and to call attention to the rights of residents in long-term care facilities.

Lisa Furber

The theme for Residents’ Rights Month 2020 is “Connections Matter” — to emphasize connections to family, to friends and to the community as an essential component of good health and quality of life for residents. The months of restrictions on visitation in long-term care facilities and the inability of residents, families and friends to be together during the coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the importance of connection and of relationships and the impact they have on the well-being of us all. During this crisis, many creative ways of staying connected were shared that can be replicated and built upon in all communities.

Margaret Bailey

Residents’ Rights Month is an opportunity to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the rights of each resident. The federal Nursing Home Reform Law guarantees residents’ rights and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity, choice and self-determination. The law also requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident.” Residents’ Rights Month is a time to raise awareness of these rights and celebrate residents.

Celebrate and acknowledge these rights by participating in Residents’ Rights Month events and calling on your elected officials, community members and local facilities to show their support by attending or organizing activities.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Residents’ Rights Month celebrations, activities and events are limited. In past years, the governor has signed a proclamation and a large event has been held. This year, no statewide event will take place, however, individual facilities may be holding small, socially distanced activities for their residents.

During Residents’ Rights Month, we recognize our local long-term care ombudsman program staff and volunteers, who work daily to promote residents’ rights, assist residents with complaints and provide information to those who need to find a long-term care facility. In Delaware, the ombudsman program serves the entire state. Jill McCoy is Delaware’s long-term care ombudsman. This program includes facility-assigned, community-based and volunteer ombudsmen who work on a variety of resident rights in Delaware nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, group homes and the community. To contact Delaware’s ombudsman program, call (800) 223-9074.

The Delaware Nursing Home Residents Quality Assurance Commission (DNHRQAC) is an advocacy group that monitors the quality-assurance system in long-term care and assisted-living facilities as it relates to quality of care and quality of life for individuals who reside in the facilities. DNHRQAC can be reached at 302-824-2956.

As Delaware celebrates residents’ rights, we encourage community members to connect with those they know who live in long-term care facilities, participate in Residents’ Rights Month events or inquire about becoming a volunteer long-term care ombudsman. Your assistance and attention help ensure that the voices of long-term care residents do not go unheard and demonstrates to residents that they have not been forgotten.

Lisa Furber is chair of the Delaware Nursing Home Residents Quality Assurance Commission. Margaret Bailey is the group’s executive director.