by Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, MDEC, CTRS
October is Resident Rights Month which is an annual event introduced by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care or the Consumer Voice as it is more commonly known. This event is designed to honor elders living in nursing homes, assisted living communities, short term rehab facilities as well as retirement communities. Resident Rights Month is meant to focus awareness on dignity, respect and the value of each individual person living in these communities.
This event reinforces the importance of the Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987 which outlined specific standards for quality of life, quality of care and individual rights for each person living in long term care communities. Even before the law was introduced, Consumer Voice has been a champion for Resident Rights introducing the first Resident Rights Week in 1981. The program has grown consistently each year, with Consumer Voice defining yearly themes and offering many resources on Resident Rights training.
The Resident Rights 2018 Theme is “Speak Up: Know Your Rights and How to Use Them” which focuses on the importance of being informed of your rights, being involved in making decisions about your care and quality of life as well as feeling free to share what is important. To assist in creating programs for this year’s theme, there is a packet of free, downloadable materials ( which include printed information on Resident Rights, PowerPoint training materials, learning games and activities to use with staff, family and residents.. There are many helpful resources related to educating staff and residents on the full scope and meaning of Resident Rights.
Keeping our elders informed of their rights is an important responsibility. The Resident Council is one way to communicate the full scope and meaning of each right. Some communities devote one meeting per year to reading all the rights to the residents, which can be overwhelming and is most often times – ineffective.

Some more creative ways to keep our elders informed of their rights include the following:
-Devote some time at each council meeting to discussing one grouping of rights.
-Provide large print copies of the right being discussed so individuals can follow along.
-Create real life scenarios to explain the right and illustrate various violations.
-Ensure residents are aware of the community’s grievance policy and practices. Provide the forms in large print for discussion.
-Invite the Ombudsman to speak at a Resident Council meeting on the topic of Resident Rights.
-Schedule a Resident Council meeting where the results of the facility survey are kept (in a binder in the lobby or front area). Point out and discuss how this information is for anyone to review. Take a walking trip to where the Ombudsman poster is displayed and any contact information to call the State Department of Health when necessary. Actually showing the residents where this information is located is more effective than simply telling them quickly in a meeting.
-Create a word game related to rights – possibly “hangman” with a specific right being the word of choice. When the correct word is identified, discuss what it means and its application.
-Utilize one of the many activities on the Consumer Voice web site about communicating and enacting rights.
-Utilize a digital game such as Kahoot to create an on line game on specific rights.
-Dedicate a discussion group to the notion of empowerment and speaking out for themselves as well as others.
-Introduce a “Right of the Month” with flyers, buttons and other means of communicating the right and what it means.
-Have your administrator and other department heads meet with residents and stress importance of speaking out when they feel a right is not met. Hearing this from positions of authority builds confidence within the residents.

The Resident Council is a helpful forum in communicating information about Resident Rights but not the only way. Check out the following for more information about developing your Council.

Developing a Resident Council – NCCAP Pre-approved 4.5 Hour independent study program  10% Discount for October
Links related to organizing a Resident Council