October is Resident Rights Month:
It’s All About Me – My Life, My Care, My Choices
by Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

     October is Resident Rights Month which is an annual event introduced by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care or as it is more commonly known as the Consumer Voice (http://ltcombudsman.org/). 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 Residents’ 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 Residents’ Rights 2017 Theme is “It’s all about me: My Life, My Care, My Choices” which highlights the importance of respect and dignity for every resident. This year’s theme supports the new federal rules of participation which focus on person centered care and individual preferences. Activity Professionals have always promoted the individual’s right to choose their own schedule and activities. We have always advocated for the resident’s right to communicate with whom they choose. Our programs have always been designed to meet each individual’s unique need and wants. This year’s Residents’ Rights Month emphasizes resident-directed care as well as self-determination, choices and quality of life for each person.

     Person Centered or Person Directed Care has been the driving force of activity professionals even before these terms became recognized in many state and now, the federal regulations. Activity Professionals have always seen the person as a person with a diverse collection of interests and needs that can be met through therapeutic activities, both in group and on a 1-1 basis. Person directed care is not that complicated. It is simply seeing the world through our elder’s eyes and striving to keep that elder “in the driver’s seat”. What do they want? Not, what do I think they want or what I think they need. Hearing the person’s voice, regardless of cognitive status is crucial to person directed care. For that, we have to listen – not only with our ears but with our observations and senses. Many elders share what they want and need through behaviors and actions, not just words. Take this month’s Residents’ Rights Month as an opportunity to educate others to a concept that is dear to our profession. Schedule trainings, not only for staff but include discussion within your next Resident Council meeting on choice, self-determination and autonomy.

     There is a packet of free, downloadable materials (http://theconsumervoice.org/events/residents-rights-month-2017) which include printed information on Resident Rights, PowerPoint training materials, learning games and activities to use with staff, family and residents. There is a special program related to this year’s theme called Resident Voice Challenge where your residents can share their writing or artistic skills by submitting essays, poems, artwork, drawings, or videos related to this year’s theme “It’s all about me: My Life, My Care, My Choices”.

The Resident Council is a helpful forum in communicating information about Resident Rights. Check out the following for more information about developing your Council.

Developing a Resident Council – NCCAP Pre-approved 4.5 Hour independent study program
Links related to organizing a Resident Council