October is National Long-Term Care Residents' Rights Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices many long-term care (LTC) residents have made to better our community and to call attention to the rights of residents in long-term care facilities. This year's theme — Speak out Against Elder Abuse — was selected to call attention to the fact that elder abuse is an issue that shouldn't be taken lightly.
The abuse of long-term care residents is an occurrence that not many people like to acknowledge or report. It is important that elders are given a sense that this social issue isn't simply being ignored.
By speaking out against this serious problem, we honor the lives and experiences of our elders as well as treat them with dignity and respect; staff and residents can enjoy relationships with long-term care residents that enhance their day-to-day lives and the long-term care facility can operate more effectively in its daily activities when based on and developed with consumer trust and involvement. Many people care about residents — family members, citizen advocates, long-term care ombudsmen, facility staff and others. This care can be truly individualized and focused on each person's needs and preferences.
According to 2013 data from the Colorado Department of Human Services, there were 11,539 reports made to Adult Protection statewide, 25% were for caregiver neglect, 24% exploitation, 8% physical abuse and 1% sexual abuse. Family members account for 75% of all alleged perpetrators of adult abuse.
Colorado now has an elder abuse law that requires mandatory reporting of suspected abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of elders 70 years of age or older to law enforcement by professionals in health care, finance, social services and other professionals (SB13-111, which becomes effective on July 1, 2014). In the meantime, intensive educational efforts are being directed at these professionals and materials are being disseminated to alert the public to this change in law. The legislation also addresses a number of issues necessary for an effective Adult Protective Services (APS) system, including reduced caseloads, provision for emergency and protective services and a new data management system to improve efficiency and accountability.
During Resident's Rights Month, we recognize our local long-term care ombudsman program staff and volunteers, who work daily to promote residents' rights, assist residents with complaints and provide information to those who need to find a long-term care facility. In 2012, Colorado Long-Term Care Ombudsmen investigated 3,959 complaints in 222 nursing homes and 586 assisted living residences and made 2,832 visits to nursing homes and 4,383 visits to assisted living residences. Ombudsmen provide education to residents, families and staff on residents' rights and person-centered care, long-term care supports and services, investigate complaints and advise elders on ways to solve problems related to quality care and services. To learn more about free ombudsman services or to locate an ombudsman in your community, call 1-855-500-6050 x18 or 1-800-288-1376.
As Colorado and the rest of the nation celebrate Residents' Rights Month, 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.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman