Department of Aging Highlights Work of Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents to Support Seniors

GREENVILLE, PA The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman recently visited St. Paul’s Senior Living Community in Mercer County to shadow a Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Resident (PEER) in recognition of National Residents’ Rights Month, a time to create awareness about the dignity, respect, and rights of skilled nursing facility and personal care residents.

“Long-term care residents may not be able to care for themselves as independently as they once could, due to age or disability, but they are not powerless,” said the Department of Aging’s State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Margaret Barajas. “Ombudsmen and PEERs empower residents by giving them a voice, and this support results in individuals feeling more secure and comfortable in advocating for themselves.”

Ombudsmen are trained resident advocates who visit facilities to ensure that residents and their families are being heard, that they are informed of their rights under state and federal law, and to assure residents are receiving the quality care they need and deserve. PEERs are also trained advocates who, because they live within a long-term care community, are experts in making recommendations on improving the living conditions within their own homes and facilities. The PEER program is the only of its kind in the country, and the Colorado Ombudsman Office visited Pennsylvania this year to receive training on how to implement a similar program in their state.

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Department of Aging officials shadowed a PEER resident through a morning of duties—meeting with other residents to discuss their quality of life, concerns about their care, and to identify suggestions about how to improve their homes.

A resident’s long-term care experience should include quality in all aspects—care, life, services, and choices, and one of the most crucial roles for ombudsmen is educating residents about what their rights are. They include, but are not limited to, the right to:

  • be fully informed
  • complain
  • participate in their own care
  • privacy and confidentiality
  • dignity, respect, and freedom
  • visits
  • make independent choices
  • safe transfer or discharge

The role of ombudsmen in long-term care settings is crucial in assuring that seniors and individuals with disabilities are advocated for and understand what they are entitled to. Under the federal Older Americans Act, all states have a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office to address complaints and advocate for improvements as needed.

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Learn more about Pennsylvania’s Ombudsman Services here.
Learn about volunteer opportunities with Pennsylvania’s Ombudsman Office here.

span style=”font-size: .8em;”>Source: Pennsylvania Department of Aging

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