Area Agency on Aging: October is Residents’ Rights Month

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    By Kay Kaylor
    PREVIEW Columnist

    I advocate for residents in extended care and assisted living residences as the region’s lead long-term care ombudsman. I also am a Senior Medicare Patrol and State Health Insurance Assistance Program counselor, all as an employee of San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA). The many aging and care concerns will be addressed here.

    This year, due to the repercussions of the pandemic, the rights of residents of long-term care facilities are on the forefront of people’s minds, from family members and other advocates to lawmakers and health departments. An annual event designated by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, the 2020 Residents’ Rights Month carries the theme “Connection Matters.” 

    “The theme emphasizes connections — to family, friends and the community — as essential components of good health and quality of life for residents,” a Consumer Voice email notes. Despite visitation limitations, residents, family and facilities can participate in various ways all month long. 

    The Consumer Voice’s website, theconsumervoice.org, offers a free Enrichment Activities booklet with puzzles, word games, trivia questions, space for writing and other activities. In addition, the website has links to other ideas for connecting with residents using mail, technology and outdoor visits or entertainers. Inside the facility, for example, the intercom or an internal television channel could play music or sing-alongs, classes or stories. Residents could write each other as pen pals. Other ideas connect residents to the community and nature.

    Some of the rights guaranteed by the Nursing Home Reform Law, passed in 1987, are the rights to individualized quality care, respect, dignity, visitation, privacy, complain without fear and independent choices. Those in assisted living maintain the same rights as U.S. citizens and under Colorado law. 

    SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call or text 403-2165 or send an email to leadombudsman@sjbaaa.org.