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Elderly residents deserve dignity

October is National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month, a time to call attention to the rights of residents in long-term care facilities and to acknowledge the contributions many long-term care (LTC) residents have made to better our community.

State and federal laws and regulations guarantee that residents who make their home in all types of long-term care facilities maintain their rights as U.S. citizens, and gain additional rights as residents. These include, but are not limited to: individualized care, respect, dignity, the right to visitation, the right to privacy, the right to complain, and the right to be free of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Sondra Everhart

Sondra Everhart

This year’s theme, CARE Matters, was selected to call attention to the fact that residents of LTC facilities deserve quality care. Under the law, long-term care residents are entitled to receive care that enhances their quality of life. Rather than one-size-fits all approaches, residents deserve person-centered care that recognizes their unique individualized needs.

Person-centered care allows residents to be treated with dignity and respect, to have their preferences heard and honored. It focuses on relationships between long-term care residents and facility staff that enhance their lives, and allows a facility to operate more effectively in its daily activities with consumer trust and involvement.

As more than 40 percent of Americans reaching the age of 65 will spend some time in a nursing home during their remaining years, this is an issue that affects us all. Gov. Susana Martinez has joined the national celebration of residents’ rights by proclaiming October Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month in New Mexico.

Residents’ Rights Month is also an opportunity to recognize our ombudsman volunteers who work to promote residents’ rights, assist residents with complaints, and provide a voice to elders and adults with disabilities who might otherwise go unheard. In New Mexico, there are 100 volunteer ombudsmen who dedicate their time to serve more than 12,000 long-term care residents in 340 licensed and unlicensed facilities statewide. The ombudsman program is housed in the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department and may be reached via the following number: Santa Fe & Northeastern New Mexico 1-866-451-2901.

I encourage community members to visit those they know in a long-term care facility, volunteer in a facility, participate in Residents’ Rights Month events or inquire about becoming a volunteer long-term care ombudsman. Your assistance and attention helps to ensure that the voices of long-term care residents do not go unheard and demonstrates to residents that they have not been forgotten.

Sondra Everhart is State Long Term Care Ombudsman with the Aging and Long-Term Services Department in Santa Fe.

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