September Rhode Island Ombudsman's Report

October is Residents' Rights Month - "Inspiring Unity Within Our Community"

by Kathleen Heren, Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman

Kathleen Heren

October is Residents’ Rights month across the country. This year's Residents’ Rights Month theme - Inspiring Unity within Our Community - emphasizes the importance of fostering meaningful community within the facility and encouraging residents’ connection to their local community. Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will join with family members, ombudsmen, citizen advocates, and staff by honoring the individual rights of long-term care residents. The ombudsmen in our office are committed to seeing that all resident rights are respected.

When I speak to in-service groups of facility staff or other providers, I highlight one simple fact concerning a resident’s rights; a right is based upon the individual’s understanding of the possible consequence of that right. For example, a resident who refuses a medication may continue to experience health problems that could result in their death. A right also belongs to someone as long as it does not violate other residents’ rights. This could be blasting a television all night keeping others awake. When there is a question of someone’s rights being violated, my staff will intervene with all parties involved to try and work out a compromise. This may anger the family of the resident or the staff but that is never a factor my staff considers if it infringes on a resident’s right.

"I highlight one simple fact concerning a resident's rights; a right is based upon the individual's understanding of the possible consequences of that right." --- Kathleen Heren

Throughout the pandemic, residents of long-term care facilities and the activities which were normally taking place were limited. Many residents could not even leave the facility to enjoy time with their families or engage in a community activity. Even if someone resides in a facility, they should be encouraged to stay part of the community they were active in if their health allows for it.

Thank you to all of you who work to make residents’ rights meaningful all year, not just in October. All facilities still have time to plan an activity that shows your support for Residents’ Rights Month. Our office is available to provide in-service education to any facility that requests it. Please contact our office at 401-785-3340 or 1-888-351-0808 and we will assist you in any way we can.

For more information on how your facility can celebrate Residents’ Rights Month, you can visit The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care website;


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



Ms. Heren provides a monthly guest blog to Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. in which she discusses issues and topics that come across her desk as the Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman. The opinions expressed in our guest blogs are those of the author(s) only. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Attorney RJ Connelly III, or the employees of Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.

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