Ombudsman Program

Fairfax County Department of Family Services
Fairfax Area Agency on Aging

12011 Government Center Parkway
Fairfax, VA 22035-1102

October 3, 2007

Northern VA Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
Raises Awareness of Resident Rights

The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s Office is launching a resident rights awareness campaign directed at staff of Northern Virginia’s 110 nursing homes and assisted living facilities during National Residents’ Rights Week.

The week, which runs from October 7 to 13, was designated by the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) in order to honor residents living in long-term care facilities.

The ombudsman program has mailed to long-term care facilities training packets that include a CD with three presentations covering federal standards for residents’ rights, the role of the ombudsman office and a special program on recognizing and avoiding “subtle abuse” of residents.

According to Laura Nichols, director of the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, the CD can be used by facilities to train staff and educate residents of their rights. Ms. Nichols also said that she hoped friends and family members of residents will ask facilities to use these training materials and ideas.

Her office felt it was important this year to draw attention to the issue of “subtle abuse,” which includes seemingly minor slights and insults made while staff is caring for residents. This can include:

  • Knocking on the resident’s door but entering before being asked to come in;
  • Cleaning a resident’s room without acknowledging the resident or explaining why you are there;
  • Beginning a medical procedure without explaining why.

According to Ms. Nichols, this kind of treatment violates resident rights. “It amounts to treating people like objects,” said Ms. Nichols. “The nursing home or assisted living facility is the resident’s home. No one wants to be treated like that in their own home.”

“It is important for facility staff to recognize and understand that residents have not lost their rights and have actually gained rights when they are living in a facility,” she said.

The package also includes suggested activities that nursing and assisted living facilities can implement to honor Residents’ Rights week. One activity involves giving residents disposable cameras and having them take pictures of examples of quality care in their daily life for exhibition and discussion.

According to Ms. Nichols, program staff and volunteers are available to conduct additional trainings for nursing home and assisted living facility staff on resident rights upon request. Long-Term Care Ombudsman Shannon Dodd, who created the presentations, said she hopes staff members will follow the golden rule and “realize how their actions make the resident feel.”

“Put yourself in their place and ask yourself how you would want to be treated,” Dodd said.

The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program serves the residents of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Fairfax City, Falls Church City, Loudoun County, Manassas, Manassas Park and Prince William County. The program was established to advocate for residents so they experience a good quality of care and life in assisted living or nursing facilities.


The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in all programs, services and activities and will provide reasonable accommodations and alternate formats upon request.

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Fairfax County Department of Family Services
[ 12011 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035 ]
[ 703-324-7500 ]

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