dignity and quality of life
Thank you for returning to this multi-part series on long-term care residents’ rights. At the bottom of this article, you will find links to the previous five postings. As this is the last in the series, I want to advise my readers that I have in no way covered every topic that could be covered in a series such as this one. I have, however, covered complaint topics that quite commonly occur in long-term care settings. In most complaint categories, more than one residents’ rights law has been violated. For the most part, I have only mentioned one aspect of the law that addresses the rights violations.
Today’s topic covers the umbrella topic of dignity and quality of life. Without exception, every rights violation is an infringement of a resident’s dignity and a detriment towards enhancing the quality of life residents should expect to experience. The same holds true whether that resident lives in a “Champagne and Chandelier” facility or a “Generic Brand X” facility. Regardless of how fancy, regardless of how bland, the same rights are afforded to all residents. All situations listed in this six-part series assume a resident is cognitively capable of making his or her own decisions.
Breakfast in bed, pee on the side
I rolled over in bed thinking I might get a few additional minutes of sleep, but those potential minutes were rudely interrupted by the assault from the room’s overhead light, the hustle of someone rushing into my room, and the abrupt raising of the head of my electrically powered bed. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to remain curled up on your side while half of your bed is put at a 90 degree angle, but trust me, it’s not possible and it’s not comfortable.
“Hey, Gloria, time for breakfast. Come on, open your eyes and sit up so I can give you your breakfast tray.”
I’ve lived in this nursing home for three months now and every time one of these care people talks to me, they call me by my first name, and in my eyes, that’s a sign of disrespect. “First of all, I’ll remind you that my name is Mrs. Lewis, and second of all, I absolutely cannot eat the morning meal prior to going to the bathroom. Please help me to the toilet and then I’ll have my breakfast.”
“No can do, Gloria, you’re just one of forty other patients I have to personally deliver meals to this morning. You should have thought of that earlier and asked one of us to take you to the toilet before we started delivering meals.”
“But I was asleep, and besides, I told the head nurse many times that I require toileting assistance and that I require it before my morning meal. How many other times must I make this request?”
“I don’t know, how many?”
I looked at this uncaring individual and pleaded with her. “Please won’t you take me to the potty? My bladder is ready to burst!”
“Look, I’m already running behind. Just go in your pants, that’s what your nighttime diaper is for any way. Sometime after your breakfast, someone will clean you up, but it won’t be me. After I deliver all my trays, my shift is over.”
Imagine, if you can, not having the opportunity to use the bathroom after a full night’s sleep, and trying to enjoy a meal that is placed before you. Then imagine not being able to hold it any longer and peeing yourself and sitting in it for who knows how long. The above scenario is real. A family member of mine experienced this exact scenario. I also am acquainted with a gentleman who, after asking three times in a half hour period to be assisted to the restroom so he could evacuate his bowels, he was told “Go in your pants. I don’t have time to help you right now.” That neglect does not preserve a person’s dignity, nor does it promote quality of life.
42 CFR 483.15 Quality of life. A facility must care for its residents in a manner and in an environment that promotes maintenance or enhancement of each resident’s quality of life.
(a) Dignity. The facility must promote care for residents in a manner and in an environment that maintains or enhances each resident’s dignity and respect in full recognition of his or her individuality. See also Washington State law RCW 70.129.005 and RCW 70.129.140
What follows are a few other frequently occurring scenarios found in LTC residential settings:
Visitation policies: residents have the right to receive visitors of his/her choosing and a facility must not interfere with such access. There is no such thing as visiting hours, regardless of the LTC setting. If an adult son’s work schedule is such that he can only visit before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., reasonable accommodation must be made to facilitate his visit.
Choices regarding schedules, clothing: regardless of LTC dining room and meal hours, a resident has the right to receive meals outside of those hours. For example, if a resident is not an early-riser, he should still be able to acquire a suitable breakfast meal; this does not mean that he has full access to all that was offered prior to the “end” of breakfast hours, but he should still be able to eat breakfast items. A peanut butter & jelly sandwich does not qualify as such – unless, of course, that’s his choice. Unless a resident has turned over the responsibility of making daily clothing choices to a staff person, a resident must be given the opportunity to make clothing choices that are important to her. Clothing choices promote individuality. Each of you reading this article dress as you please; that shouldn’t change just because you move into an institutional setting.
Isolation & seclusion: punishment to a resident for perceived misbehavior in the form of prohibiting participation in dining room meals and/or activities of his choosing, is not appropriate and is a complete violation of a resident’s rights. A better response to behavioral issues is to discern the cause of said issues, e.g., depression, medication anomalies, medical conditions such as a urinary tract infection (UTI). Resolve the cause, and you resolve the effect.
Series links: Part 1, the right to make choices that are important to the resident; Part 2, admission polices, waivers of liability; Part 3, eviction and discharge process; Part 4, substandard and neglectful care; Part 5, accepting or rejecting medical care.
If you or a loved one need assistance regarding LTC residents’ rights, contact your local LTC Ombudsman office which can be located at the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
Since Baby Boomers and their family members face the possibility of arranging long-term care (LTC) housing for a loved one, or will be on the receiving end of long-term care, I am providing information related to what one can and should expect while living in a LTC setting. This will be a multi-part series wherein I provide a real-life scenario, and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) citation applicable to that scenario. Since I live in Washington State, I will also provide the applicable State statute, and I encourage those living in other states to do an internet search for “long-term care residents’ rights in your state” in order to locate your local laws. All scenarios assume that the resident in question is cognitively able to make his or her own decisions.
My kids aren’t the boss of me!
I’m so excited, my soaps are about to start and I have the whole afternoon to myself. I’m looking forward to seeing how they’re going to get rid of Sami. She’s been on Days of our Lives since she was a young teenager; that’s a long time in soap opera years. I’ll just wheel into my bedroom, get my knitting basket, and set myself up in front of the television.
All right, now I’m ready; it’s time to tune in!
There’s a knock at the door, drat, right when my first soap is about to start. “Come in!” Oh no, it’s that perky activity person. When they interviewed candidates for her job they must have had a perkiness contest as one of the criteria for hiring. I’ll see if I can get rid of her real quick-like. “Hello, Ruby, what can I do for you today?”
“What can you do for me? Don’t be silly, it’s what I can do for you that matters, Mrs. Tanaka. We’re showing a movie in the main living room that I’m sure you’ll like. It’s called, 101 Dalmatians, won’t that be great?”
A movie about dogs instead of my soap operas? Not going to happen. “That’s okay, Ruby, I’m happy just watching my TV shows. Maybe some other time.” Now I’ve gone and done it, Ruby looks baffled, not sure how to change the course of her task.
“Mrs. Tanaka, I was told to wheel you to the living room for the movie and not take ‘no’ for an answer.” She pulled a piece of paper out of her smock’s deep pocket and showed it to me. “Look right here. It says, ‘The family has requested that their mother not spend an inordinate amount of time in her room and that she attend at least four activities per week.’ It’s already Thursday and you haven’t even been to one event this week. We have to make up for lost time.” She bent over my wheelchair, unlocked the brake and positioned herself behind it.
“But I don’t want to see the movie, I want to watch television. I love my soap operas and today’s the last day Sami is going to be on Days. Please, I don’t care what my children have requested, I’d really rather stay in my apartment.”
Ruby leaned over, picked up my yarn and needles, and placed them in my knitting bag on the floor. “Come on, I’m sure you’ll like it once you get there.” Pushing with all her might, Ruby escorted me out of my room, thus bringing an end to all my plans for the afternoon. Those children of mine have no right meddling into my private life. “Ruby, whose opinion matters most: the person who lives at this assisted living facility, or those who don’t? This isn’t fair; don’t I have rights?”
Mrs. Tanaka was coerced to go somewhere she didn’t want to go; because she was confined to a wheelchair, her ability to stand her ground by refusing to attend an activity was compromised. Additionally, although this resident can get around her apartment in her wheelchair, wheeling herself long distances is very problematic for her; as a result, once in the living room she would require assistance to return to her room, rendering her a captive audience.
42 CFR 483.10 The resident has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility. A facility must protect and promote the rights of each resident, including each of the following rights:
(a) Exercise of rights.
(1) The resident has the right to exercise his or her rights as a resident of the United States.
(2) The resident has the right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination, and reprisal from the facility in exercising his or her rights. See also, Washington State law: RCW 70.129.140
Mrs. Tanaka has the right to make choices that are important to her. She wanted to watch television – not attend a kids’ movie. Regardless of what her adult children want, Mrs. Tanaka’s rights trump theirs.
42 CFR 483.15 Quality of Life A facility must care for its residents in a manner and in an environment that promotes maintenance or enhancement of each resident’s quality of life.
(a) Dignity. The facility must promote care for residents in a manner and in an environment that maintains or enhances each resident’s dignity and respect in full recognition of his or her individuality.
(b) Self-determination and participation. The resident has the right to:
(1) Choose activities, schedules, and health care consistent with his or her interests, assessments, and plans of care;
(2) Interact with members of the community both inside and outside the facility; and
(3) Make choices about aspects of his or her life in the facility that are significant to the resident. See also Washington State law RCW 70.129.140
Note: there are even more legal citations applicable to the above scenario; a quick search of 42 CFR 483 on the internet provides all laws relating to long-term care residents rights. If you or a loved one need assistance regarding LTC residents rights, contact your local LTC Ombudsman office which can be located at the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
Part 2 of this series will deal with the illegal practice of requiring residents to sign a Waiver of Liability prior to being admitted to a facility.