long-term care resident rights
Alternate Title: Give me a damn beer!
Lately I’ve read various blog posts mentioning that employees of long-term care (LTC) facilities are routinely disregarding the rights of their residents. What’s that you say? You didn’t know that when these older folks walked through the doors of a facility, thus giving up their cherished long-term independence, they actually gained rights that they never had before? Here’s some information that will benefit you and your loved ones. I’ll explain by way of providing a few examples:
- Charlie moves his mother into a facility and the head of Health and Wellness strongly suggests that he not visit her for awhile so she can adjust to living in a different environment.
WRONG! If mom wants her son to visit her, Charlie should ignore the “advice” of the H&W employee and visit mom as often, and as long, as he and his mom wishes. Logic: What do you think benefits mom most? The calming presence of her son who has been the only constant in her life, or the absence of any person or thing that would lessen the feeling of abandonment in a strange environment?
- June, who is confined to a wheelchair, is forced to go to an activity by facility staff. Apparently June’s family has asked staff members to make sure that June gets out of her room and socializes with other residents. On this particular day June would rather stay in her apartment and watch game shows on television.
Who wins this argument? June should because it’s her life, and neither staff, nor family, can force her to do anything. Logic: Doesn’t someone who’s lived at least 7 or 8 decades have the right to make decisions that are important to her? Yes – and that right is protected by law. Legal implications: June is reliant on others to transport her to and from places, therefore when she’s taken to the activity room against her wishes, the law considers that action as physical restraint because she is “stuck” in the activity room and in her chair, and not able to physically move herself elsewhere on her own steam. Additionally, the facility is guilty of coercion – forcing June to do something she doesn’t want to do.
- George joins his buddies in the dining room for lunch and orders a chili dog and a Bud Lite. When the meals for him and his buddies are served, George’s chili dog has been pureed and his beer has been substituted with a glass of iced tea.
Dilemma: The server tells George that his doctor ordered a pureed diet because George almost choked on a roll at a nearby restaurant and he risks aspirating on his food. The server then tells George, and anyone within hearing distance, that his doctor also said George should not drink alcohol because of his diabetes.
Rights infractions: The server talked about a medical condition in front of his buddies by mentioning two medical conditions: George’s choking hazard and his diabetes. That’s a violation of his privacy rights. George is aware of the choking incident – and he is also aware that alcohol may not be such a good idea because of his diabetes – but he is making an informed decision to eat and drink what he wants, knowing all the risks involved. Solution: Oftentimes facilities are worried about liability in these types of situations – very understandable. To resolve such a concern, all that is needed is to conduct a “care conference” in which the health & wellness director, George, and perhaps his doctor by phone, discuss the risks inherent with George’s decisions. They can easily discern that George has weighed the pros and cons and that although he acknowledges that doctor’s orders have been issued, George decides to disregard said orders. Care conference notes should indicate the gist of the discussion; perhaps everyone in attendance signs their name agreeing that what is written in the notes accurately reflects the points covered in the discussion, and then everyone should be happy and no lawyers need to be involved.
I strongly suggest that you contact the long-term care ombudsman in your state should you have any inkling that your loved one’s rights are being neglected. Visit the National Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) and join with them to advocate for your loved one. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, and certainly all of you would agree that all people should have a satisfying quality of life regardless of ones’ age and residential environment.
Final thought: put yourself in your loved one’s position … what would you want done on your behalf?
Submitted by Boomer98053, a retired Certified Long-Term Care Ombudsman.