October is Residents' Rights Month
By Lori Smetanka, Executive Director, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care
October 11, 2022
October is Residents’ Rights Month. This is a time to focus on the fact that individuals residing in long-term care facilities have rights – rights afforded to all human beings living in the United States, along with the rights afforded all residents of long-term care facilities, such as to have choice and control over their daily lives, reasonable accommodation of needs and preferences, the ability to choose activities, schedules, health care and providers consistent with their interests, goals, assessment, and plan of care; and rights intended to protect them from harm, such as the right to be free from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and misappropriation of property.
This year’s theme for Residents’ Rights Month (2022) is Inspiring Unity within Our Community. Residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities spent much of the pandemic isolated from family, friends, and members of the community at large. Inspiring Unity within Our Community empowers individuals residing in long-term care facilities to re-establish their place as important members of their communities, both within and outside the facility walls. Federal rules give residents the right to interact with members of their community and participate in community activities both inside and outside the facility such as social or religious activities and resident council meetings.
When asking residents about community and what it means to them, they talk about their friends and neighbors, being with people they enjoy spending time with and those that are working towards the same goals. They talk about sharing experiences, food, music, and fun. As one resident shared, “We do all kinds of things together, and togetherness and mutual caring are major keys to true community.”
We all need community to thrive. During the pandemic when residents were confined to their rooms separated from family, friends, neighbors, and others, many declined in health and well-being. Many residents showed signed of depression, anxiety, and despair. Others withdrew within themselves and lost the will to live. Many residents felt forgotten. When the isolation ended, the residents celebrated, sought out old and new friends, and together mourned those they lost.
Engaging the larger community with the long-term care facility not only contributes to the well-being of the residents, but it also provides a level of accountability for the care and service the facility provides. Community members provide additional eyes and ears that observe conditions in the facility, and interactions between staff and residents. They watch out for not only their own parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, but also their friends and neighbors.
As we focus on residents’ rights, let us all work to Inspire Unity within Our Community and include those living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other congregate living settings. We can all find ways to stimulate community engagement and participation in long-term care facilities and increase resident access to and participation in community life. Learn more about the long-term care settings in your area and about the residents who live there to grow and strengthen your entire community.
Learn more about Residents’ Rights Month, this year’s theme, and how residents reflect on the importance of community at https://theconsumervoice.org/events/2022-residents-rights-month.