Being a resident in a long-term care facility does not mean giving up your legal rights. In fact, anyone who lives in a nursing facility gains certain rights. You can see a summary of those rights here, and read the full Florida Statutes here.
Of course, problems do arise. Justice in Aging, a nonprofit advocacy organization, has compiled a list of the 20 most common complaints. Among them: disregarding a resident’s preferences; improper use of restraints; imposing visiting hours on family and friends; refusal to readmit after a hospital stay; and threatening eviction after refusing medical treatment.
If a resident’s legal rights are being violated, or if a resident encounters any other quality-of-life problems with regard to staff, service, food, medication, privacy, etc., the resident, family, or any other interested person should go through staff members, then up the chain of command if necessary. If the problem cannot be resolved, the facility’s ombudsman should be contacted. An ombudsman advocates for residents and investigates any issues brought to his/her attention to protect residents’ legal rights, safety, health and welfare. The ombudsman is authorized to negotiate with the facility as well as to tap the resources of appropriate state agencies. Complaints are kept confidential, and the ombudsman’s services are free of charge. Per the federal Older Americans Act, every facility must have an ombudsman.
Florida has seventeen local ombudsman councils. To identify the council closest to you, check out this clickable map. To locate the ombudsman’s office in states other than Florida, click here.
If you’d like to consider being trained to do this important work, check out the Department of Elder Affairs’ Frequently Asked Questions.