Placing a loved one in a Skilled Nursing or Long Term Care Facility can be difficult in many ways. From feelings of losing independence, to concerns about whether the facility will be willing and able to provide the care required, the experience can leave new residents and family members feeling vulnerable and uncertain. In Ohio, those vulnerabilities have been recognized by lawmakers, who wrote a broad law requiring all homes to recognize and safeguard Residents’ Rights.
What does the law cover? The rights include a safe and clean living environment, the right to be free from physical, verbal, mental, and emotion abuse, and the right to adequate and appropriate medical treatment and care. And while these seem narrow and specific, they are actually quite broad. A safe environment could mean floors free of obstacles and spills, but it could also mean that the hoyer lifts being used in the home are regularly inspected and in good condition. Adequate and appropriate medical treatment and care can apply to both the quantity and the quality of virtually any of the care and treatment the resident needs. The rights can also include other things not specifically listed in the law.
Sadly, this law does not prevent all injuries or deaths that come from the care given at nursing homes. So, what good is it? First, it gives you as the resident or family member a clear list of things to keep an eye on. Vigilance of family is an important factor in safe and effective nursing home care. When you have a list to work from you can be more vigilant in observing the care your loved one receives. Second, the law requires the nursing homes to do certain things like provide training to its staff and inform residents of their rights and avenues of recourse for violations. Third, it specifically gives the resident or any adult relative or friend who has an interest in the residents’ care the ability to take action. This is important. The law gives you recourse – you can file a complaint with the department of health, you can file a grievance with the home, or you can file a lawsuit for the suspected violation. The Ohio Department of Health licenses nursing homes in Ohio and it is the first call you should make if you feel that something in the home’s care is not appropriate.