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Sherry Culp, executive director of the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass, recently responded to questions about decision-making in long-term care, Resident’s Rights Month in October and residents’ voting rights.
Question: The nursing home asks me what I want for my mother, but I’m not sure they are asking my mother what she wants. I am her Power of Attorney, but my mother is able to make decisions about much of her daily routine and other things. Shouldn’t the nursing home make sure they talk with my mother about things like whether or not she wants them to give updates about her health condition to my sister in Alabama or whether or not she wants to go on an outing with the other residents?
Answer: A resident can delegate health care decision-making to a specific person known as a power of attorney. The resident and family may have agreed among themselves on a decision-making process. To the degree permitted by state law, and to the maximum extent practicable, the facility must respect the resident’s wishes. However, the facility may seek a health care decision (or any other decision or authorization) from a surrogate or representative, or power of attorney only when the resident is unable to make the decision. If there is a question as to whether the resident is able to make a health care decision, staff should discuss the matter with the resident at a suitable time and judge how well the resident understands the information. If a resident can understand the situation and express a preference, the resident should be informed and his/her wishes respected to the degree practicable.
Question: What is Residents’ Rights Month?
Answer: Residents’ Rights Month in October is a time for celebration and recognition offering an opportunity for every facility to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident. The theme for Residents’ Rights Month 2012 is, “My Voice, My Vote, My Right” with the goal of encouraging residents’ right to vote and participation in the political process. Residents’ Rights Month is an excellent opportunity to reaffirm our collective commitment to residents’ rights as well as honoring our long-term care residents. Ombudsmen strongly encourage the community to visit residents who continue to be important members of our communities. If you would like to volunteer to be a resident Friendly Visitor call NHOA at 877-787-0077.
Question: My aunt has never missed an opportunity to vote. A few weeks ago she moved into a nursing home, and is unable to get to the polls this year. Can she still vote even if she is in a nursing home?
Answer: Residents’ Rights Month 2012 reminds us that residents of long-term care facilities have the right to participate in the American political process. Residents do not lose their right to vote because of where they live. Residents can participate in national, state and local elections. Some residents actually go to the polls while others use absentee ballots. It is very important to remember a few key dates related to voting in Kentucky. Absentee ballot forms may be picked up at the county clerk’s office, or by contacting the facility social worker.
Oct. 9- Last day to register to vote
Oct. 19- November 5—Voter may go to the County Clerk’s office to vote absentee if voter will be out of town on Election Day.
Oct. 24- November 5- Voter may request Medical Emergency Ballot
Oct. 30- Deadline for mail in absentee ballot requests. Applications must be received by this date.
Nov. 6 – Election Day and polls open 6:a.m.-6 p.m., local time.
If you have a question, send it to Sherry Culp, NHOA, 1530 Nicholasville Rd., Lexington, Ky., 40503. For more information about the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass, click here.