Resident Rights in Long-Term Care Facilities - Podcast Transcript
Recorded: August 29, 2012
Narration: Welcome to Fairfax County’s News to Use about Long-Term Care, the podcast that brings you consumer information as well as information on protecting the rights and quality of life of those living in nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.
I’m your host, Jim Person.
On today’s show, we will discuss the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman program and what this program does to protect the rights and quality of life of people who receive long-term care either in nursing or assisted living facilities or through home health care.
Jim: Joining me today is Sara Mattson, an ombudsman with the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.
Sara: Hi, Jim. It’s great to be here.
Jim: Sara, give our listeners a brief description of what your program does and who it represents.
Sara: Sure, Jim.The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for residents of nursing and assisted living facilities when they have a concern about their care or if they feel that that facility staff has not respected their rights.
We work with the resident or the resident’s family and the facility to resolve the complaint.
We also provide training and consultation to staff and we provide consumer information on long-term care to the public.
Jim: Don’t residents of long-term care facilities have the same rights as everyone else?
Sara: Yes, they do. You don’t lose your rights just because you need to live in a long-term care facility. You actually gain rights.
But because residents are generally vulnerable due to illness and disability, the government specifies Resident Rights and standards of care.
In fact, the federal Nursing Home Reform Act, passed in 1987, requires all nursing facilities and assisted living facilities to promote and protect the rights of each resident and establishes a Residents’ Bill of Rights. It also mandates that they provide "highest practicable" physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being for residents.
Jim: Tell us about this Residents’ Bill of Rights.
Sara: Sure.There arefour basic types of resident rights:
The first is Communication. For instance, residents have the right to voice grievances. Residents also have the right to have private communications with persons of choice and to send and receive unopened mail.
Then there is Choice – for instance, residents should be given choices in regard to what food they eat and what activities they participate in.
Decision-making is another right - for instance, residents should be allowed to make personal decisions, such as what to wear and how to spend free time.
And finally, Participation. For instance, residents have the right to participate in a Resident Council as well as social and religious activities.
Another really important participation is the right to participate in planning their care and treatment. The best way for residents to ensure that all their preferences are known is to be involved in developing the care plan.
Jim: So how does a resident or family member participate in the care plan?
Sara: Well, one good way is to attend the care plan meeting which involves the facility’s major service providers such as nurses, recreation therapists and social workers. These usually happen each quarter. The resident or their representative can provide their personal knowledge and input to the best plan of care for the resident.
Jim: That sounds like a good way to prevent a lot of misunderstandings.
Sara, can you give us an example of a typical rights violation and how it can affect a resident’s quality of life?
Sara: Sure. Food quality is an issue that we often hear about.
Residents have rights regarding the type of diet and nutritional services they receive. If the resident does not like the food that is on the menu for the day, an alternative should be offered.
If a resident’s food preferences are routinely ignored, their nutritional status would eventually be affected, which could also adversely affect their overall health.
I want to add that residents also have the right to choose when and where to eat in the facility. Some residents like to eat in the dining room and some residents like to eat alone in their rooms. Everyone is different and, under the law, these differences must be respected.
Break: Thank you Sara; let’s take a quick break. When we return, Sara will discuss what residents or their family members can do if they feel that their rights have been violated. Stay tuned!
Transition: Sound Effect
Jim: So tell us, Sara, what steps should a resident or family member take if they feel Resident Rights have been violated?
Sara: If a resident or family member feels that their rights have been violated, they should start by speaking with facility staff or the facility administrator about their concerns.
We also have volunteer ombudsmen in many of our facilities, so we would encourage them to speak with our volunteer if one is assigned to their facility.
If the facility does not have a volunteer or if the concerns are not resolved after speaking to the administrator, then we definitely would encourage the resident or their family member to give us a call and we can discuss their concerns and options to address them.
Jim: I understand your program covers all of Northern Virginia, is that correct?
Sara: Yes it does, Jim. We cover the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Price William and Loudon as well as the City of Alexandria and all the jurisdictions within these jurisdictions. There are 33 nursing facilities and 86 assisted living facilitiesin Northern Virginia serving approximately 11,204 residents.
Jim: Thank you for being with us Sara. For more information on Resident Rights or consumer information on long-term care, contact the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program callat703-324-5861; TTY 711.
Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can also visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/LTCOmbudsman.
Until we meet again, this is Jim Person for News to Use about Long Term Care.