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Ombudsman Report, January 2024 - Embracing Resident Empowerment

Embracing Resident Empowerment - Elevating Assisted Living Beyond Aesthetics and Dining

By Kathleen Heren, Rhode Island's Long-Term Care Ombudsman

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Kathleen Heren

In the world of assisted living facilities, a paradigm shift is underway-one that transcends the allure of manicured gardens and gourmet meals. Welcome to the era where resident empowerment takes center stage, signaling a significant shift in our approach to managing senior living communities.

Traditionally, the markers of a quality assisted living facility were often equated with opulent interiors, exquisite culinary experiences, and picturesque landscapes. Today, the true measure of excellence lies in fostering a culture that champions resident empowerment. This doesn't necessitate abandoning aesthetics or culinary delights; instead, it augments these offerings with opportunities for residents to actively shape their experiences and have a real and powerful voice as stakeholders in their community.

Defining Empowerment

Resident empowerment embodies a fundamental belief in honoring autonomy, dignity, and choice for the individuals residing in these facilities, recognizing residents not just as recipients of services but as active participants in decision-making processes concerning their lives.

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Residents need a sense of purpose and belonging

Creating structures where residents have a real say in community decisions and can actively contribute their skills and experiences engenders a sense of purpose and belonging, fostering a vibrant community where residents thrive. Studies consistently show that when individuals feel empowered and engaged, their overall well-being improves significantly. Mental health receives a boost, social connections flourish, and a sense of fulfillment permeates daily life.

Moreover, this shift is not solely for the benefit of residents; it's a win-win for the facility itself. Empowered residents become ambassadors, fostering a positive reputation and elevating the facility as a progressive beacon in the realm of senior care. By prioritizing autonomy, choice, and dignity, we sculpt environments where residents and their communities thrive.

Indicators of Empowerment

When shopping for a facility, there are several indicators that can help identify whether

resident empowerment is at the core of their ethos:

Active Input

Observe the level of resident involvement in decision-making processes. A facility that empowers its residents will actively seek their input in every department, from activities and menu planning, to housekeeping, policies, and community initiatives. Look for signs of resident-led committees or regular forums where their opinions are not just heard but genuinely considered and implemented. Ask to see notes from resident council meetings, and evidence of changes made as a result of resident concerns and requests.

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Diverse and meaningful activities are necesssary

Meaningful Activity

Look for diverse and meaningful activities that cater to various interests and abilities. Programs should not only aim to entertain but also empower residents to learn, grow, and contribute to the community in ways that are meaningful to them.

Check with Residents

Talk to current residents and their families-and not just ones chosen as spokespeople by administrators! Their experiences provide valuable insights into how empowered residents truly feel. Ask about opportunities for personalization and choice within their routines, activities, care, and environment.

By considering these aspects when evaluating a facility, prospective residents and their families can discern whether a facility truly prioritizes resident empowerment or merely pays it lip service. Ultimately, choosing a facility that fosters empowerment ensures a vibrant and fulfilling living experience for its residents.


Kathleen Heren

Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman

Office of the RI State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

Alliance for Better Long Term Care Inc

422 Post Road Suite 204

Warwick, RI 02888


As the Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman, Ms. Heren shares her expertise by providing a monthly guest blog to Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. In these blogs, she delves into various issues and topics that she encounters in her role. The insights and opinions expressed in these blogs are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Attorney RJ Connelly III or any of the employees at Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

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Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.

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