Across the country, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities along with family members, ombudsmen, citizen advocates, facility staff and others are honoring 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 (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 2018 is, — “Speak Up: Know Your Rights and How to Use Them” — to emphasize the importance of residents being informed about their rights and being engaged partners in achieving quality care and quality of life.

“We want residents to know the rights to which they are entitled, and we want to emphasize that residents should feel confident in speaking up about what is important to them,” said Lori Smetanka, executive director of the Consumer Voice.

Kent County has three nursing homes, defined as skilled nursing facilities, for those in need of on-site nursing but who are not in an acute phase of illness requiring services in a hospital.

They are Autumn Lake Healthcare at Chestertown, Resorts at Chester River Manor, and Willowbrooke Court, which is part of the Heron Point Continuing Care Retirement Community.

Nine other long-term care facilities in Kent County are in the category of assisted living facilities. These are D’S Place, Golden Rule, Heron Point, My Abode I, My Abode II, Our Home in the Country, Rock of Ages, Walker’s Care Home and Whispering Pines.

Assisted living facilities provide a more home-like setting, with 24-hour staff oversight, housekeeping, provision of at least two meals a day, and personal assistance.

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

The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program has worked for more than 40 years to promote residents’ rights daily. More than 8,000 volunteers and 1,000 paid staff are advocates for residents in all 50 states. Residents are often afraid to express their concerns and are sometimes unable to address their needs without assistance from a third party.

The Ombudsman can help the resident develop methods to address problems and facilitate collaborative approaches in order to work with staff to solve the complaint within the facility. Voicing concern to the Ombudsman is not limited to residents. Anyone can express concern and Ombudsman confidentiality is of paramount importance.

Upper Shore Aging, Inc. houses the ombudsman office for Kent, Caroline and Talbot Counties. To contact the ombudsman call 410-778-1182 or email tcardil lino@uppershoreaging.org.

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