Senior Citizens Bill of Rights

Sometimes when you and your elderly parent are partnering for their care, it seems like an “us against the world” situation.  But since the senior citizen you are caring for has little fight left in them, it seems it’s up to you to make sure that your elderly mom or dad get all they have coming.  Just because a person becomes a senior citizen, that doesn’t mean their fundamental rights go away.  They deserve and should expect to be treated with respect and for those serving them to live up to expectations.

But just as it was before your parent became a senior citizen, a right must be claimed to be a right.  So while there is no formal “Senior Citizens Bill of Rights”, there are laws on the books about how nursing homes must treat senior citizens.  And even if your mom or dad is in an assisted care facility and not a nursing home, there are some basic expectations that were in that contract and that are fundamentally assumed that the facility will live up to.  And its up to you as the caregiver to make sure they are living up to what is expected of them.

First of all, the facility your senior citizen lives at should be reliable to provide the basics of safety and cleanliness.  Look at the evacuation plan for the facility in the event of a fire or another emergency that would mean getting your parent out of the building.  Is it a plan that is clear and is it workable considering the entire facility is full of elderly people who may not move very quickly?  And what about emergency power?  In the event of an emergency where the power goes off early, is there emergency backup power to operate elevators and automatic doors so everyone can get out?

If the facility offers food service as part of their package of services and if there is a charge for that service, there is a basic expectation that there will be meals made available three times a day, that it will be healthy food and that your parent will never be denied service.  It is also not out of line to expect that the food could be delivered to the senior citizens rooms if your parent is ill or injured.  And your parent should be able to get some variety in their diet.   If they are not doing a good job of making foods that your parents like to eat, they shouldn’t be making that additional charge for food service.

As we mentioned earlier, your parent didn’t lose his or her rights as an individual when they move into an assisted care facility.  If your parent is paying to use that apartment, they have a right to live as they please in there.  Within certain constraints because they are in a community setting such as keeping noise down after bedtime and the like, your parent should be able to do what he or she wants to do in the privacy of their home without the interference from others in the community or from the staff of the complex.  This includes receiving guests, allowing family or friends to sleep over, how the apartment is decorated and what kind of music your parent enjoys.

A right that really cannot be detailed but can be felt dramatically is your parent’s right to be treated with dignity, compassion and respect.  This is an intangible but how the staff of the facility treat the resident’s means a lot to your parent when they see these people every day.  Its not out of line to expect the staff and management of the facility to know your parents’ names and greet them warmly when they come down to eat or go to a social event. 

If the staff of the facility have to work directly with your parent, it should be done respectfully and pleasantly.  If your parent reports verbal or emotional abuse going on by the staff, that is cause for you to investigate it and hold that facility to accountability for that problem. 

Remember the old saying that the squeaking wheel gets the oil.   So if the facility needs to be reminded of their responsibilities, you be that squeaky wheel.  Squeak loud and squeak often so your parent can live in a place where they enjoy their days and feel that this is a place they can genuinely call home.

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