Election Day is nearly upon us, and the importance of making sure all voices are heard couldn’t be more important. Residents' Rights Month, celebrated each October, honors residents living in long-term care (LTC) facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and retirement communities, with an emphasis on maintaining the dignity, respect and value of each resident. Well timed, the theme for Residents' Rights Month 2016 is "My Vote Matters" with the goal of highlighting residents' right to vote and participate in the upcoming presidential election.
Residents living in long-term care facilities sometimes feel removed from their communities, and are often disenfranchised from the political process. However, consumers receiving long-term services and support retain their voting rights no matter where they live or what type of care they receive.
Common Issues Faced When Residents Vote:
- Some LTC residents simply don’t register to vote because they are not interested or because they feel that their vote does not matter.
- Many residents are unable to cast their votes because they do not have transportation to a polling location.
- In some cases, poll workers do not know how to accommodate voters with disabilities.
To combat these issues, facilities are encouraged to generate excitement for the upcoming election, and to promote options like voter registration drives, absentee ballots and transportation to polling places.
While reflecting on the importance of participation in the political process, we can also use this as a time to reflect on the other rights residents have to make decisions regarding the care they receive. Just as with voting, the opinions and wishes of elderly residents are often disregarded when the details of assisted living are decided. Because of this, the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law details 10 rights that ensure nursing homes care for residents in a manner that promotes and enhances their quality of life, ensuring dignity, choice and self-determination.
Some rights Included in this law are:
- The right to be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion and physical and chemical restraints.
- Participate in community activities, both inside and outside the nursing home.
- The right to visits by organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal or other services.