Celebrating Residents Rights Month: Awareness of dignity, respect and the value of every Nursing Home Resident

October is Resident’s Rights Month!

Since 1981, Nursing homes across the country have dedicated a week in October to Resident Rights. The celebration was expanded to the whole month in 2011 by the National Consumer Voice.

This year’s theme is “Speak Up: Know Your Rights and How to Use Them.” The Consumer Voice notes that this year’s theme emphasizes the importance of residents being informed about their rights; being engaged partners in achieving quality care and quality of life; feeling confident in speaking up about what is important to them.

Celebrating Resident Rights is an excellent way to empower and educate both residents and staff on such an important topic. But it also serves as a good reminder to us all that when we work in or visit a Long-term care unit, we are a visitor in someone’s home.

On many long-term care units, a regular staff to resident ratio is 1 to 5.  To provide care for everyone, this ratio requires staff to be task and time oriented. Such limitation allows little time for engagement outside of the checklist and often discourages meaningful interactions with the residents in their care.

Residents are not a task, they are individuals, too. Often, residents care becomes the focus, their name becomes their diagnosis, and their needs become second to time constraints.

Resident Rights month than serves as an opportunity for us all to refocus our efforts to care for the whole individual and reaffirms our commitment to providing a quality of life for the people that depend on us the most.

What are Resident Rights? 

In 1987, The Nursing Home Reform Law was signed and declared that each resident living in a Long Term Care home would receive both quality of care and quality of life.

The Nursing Home Reform Act established the following rights for nursing home residents:

  • The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect;
  • The right to freedom from physical restraints;
  • The right to privacy;
  • The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs;
  • The right to participate in resident and family groups;
  • The right to be treated with dignity;
  • The right to exercise self-determination;
  • The right to communicate freely;
  • The right to participate in the review of one’s care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility; and
  • The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.

Residents’ Rights Month Activities

Activities are a great way to bring staff and residents together and allow relationships to build outside of the role of caregiver to care recipient. And there are so many different ways to incorporate both residents and staff in on Resident Rights activities.

Since we have the whole month, choose 2-3 Rights to focus on each week. For instance, this week we can take a closer look at the right to privacy, the right to be treated with dignity, and the right to exercise self-determination! Then at the end of the month, hold a Rally for residents, staff, and visitors where everyone can celebrate all that they have learned over the course of the month.

Focusing on Resident Rights during trivia games and arts and crafts projects throughout the month are a great way to prepare for a Resident Rights Rally at the end of the month.

Resident Rights Trivia

Trivia is fun and a great way to get staff and residents involved.  Be sure to have candy on hand for everyone that gets the answers right!! Don’t hesitate to engage staff as they walk by either- they may be on the floor, but these activities are as much for them as they are the residents.

Below are just a few questions to get you started:

  1. True or False – Once a resident enters a nursing home they lose their rights.
  2. Residents’ rights in nursing homes in the USA are protected at which level? Federal and State
  3. If a diabetic in a nursing home wants to have a piece of cake against physician’s orders, what should the nurse do?
    allow them to have it
    call the family for advice
    give them something sugar-free
    call the doctor for advice
  4.  Yes, or No- If a nursing home resident has food left on her face after a meal, is this a violation of her rights?
  5. True or False- Technically, calling a resident ‘sweetie’ or ‘honey’ is a violation of someone’s rights.

Resident Rights Rally Signs

What you will need: 1-yard stick, one posterboard, patriotic stickers, markers      

Turn Thursday afternoon Arts and Crafts, into a prep session for your Resident Right’s Rally.  Team up each resident with a different staff member and have them choose one of the rights that they would like to focus on.

Then with supplies ready, as a team, they will interpret what that right means to them and draw or write it out on the sign.  For example, I once had an aid and a resident choose a right to privacy. On their poster, they drew a depiction of the aid knocking on the resident’s door. For those of us who aren’t as artistically inclined, writing out the right and decorating the poster with stickers can be just as effective!

Once all the rights have been represented, you can put them up on display at your Resident Rights Rally!

Resident Rights Rally 

Like any rally, a Resident Rights rally brings everyone together to promote and support the rights of our residents. It is an excellent way to celebrate all of the fun and education staff, and residents have participated in over the course of the month.

Take this opportunity to invite family, friends, and even your local ombudsman!  Everyone has a part in upholding federal regulations and showing your communities support can raise awareness and support for your communities commitment.

Food, music, games, and decorations are all a must! Play favorite patriotic songs so residents can sing along and display the signs everyone made in arts and crafts.  It will undoubtedly become a beautiful representation of your community’s enthusiasm and support of the residents who call it home.

Have Fun Celebrating!

For more activity ideas check out the list by the National Consumer Voice! Don’t work in a Long-Term Care Setting?  Call your local Center to see what fun activities they are doing to celebrate and how you can get involved!


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