Speak out against elder abuse

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October is National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices many long-term care residents have made to better our community and to call attention to the rights of residents in long-term care facilities.
This year’s theme – Speak Out Against Elder Abuse, was selected to call attention to the fact that elder abuse is an issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
It is predicted that by 2025, the global population of those aged 60 years and older will more than double, from 542 million in 1995 to about 1.2 billion.
The abuse of long-term care residents is an issue that people may not like to acknowledge or report. But physical, emotional and economic abuses are unfortunately becoming more common.
According to a World Health Organization brief, a survey in the United States uncovered that 36 percent of nursing-home staff reported having witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse of an elderly patient in the previous year, 10 percent admitted having committed at least one act of physical abuse themselves, and 40 percent said that they had psychologically abused patients.
It is important to give elders and individuals with disabilities a sense that this social injustice is not simply being ignored.
By speaking out against this serious problem, we honor the lives and experiences of long-term care residents, as well as treat them with dignity and respect; staff and residents can enjoy relationships with long-term care residents that enhance their day-to-day lives; and the long-term care facility can operate more effectively in its daily activities when based on and developed with consumer trust and involvement.
Many people care about residents — family members, citizen advocates, long-term care ombudsmen, facility staff and others.
This care can be truly individualized and focused on each person’s needs and preferences.
Residents’ Rights Month is also an opportunity to recognize our ombudsman volunteers who work to promote residents’ rights, assist residents with complaints and provide a voice to elders and adults with disabilities who would otherwise go unheard.
In New Mexico, there are 130 volunteer Ombudsmen who dedicate their time to serve more than 12,000 long-term care residents in 340 licensed and unlicensed facilities statewide.
Our Ombudsmen resolve more than 4,000 complaints, offer more than 11,000 hours of service each year and ensure that our most vulnerable citizens never lose their voice.
The Ombudsman program is housed in the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department and may be reached via the following numbers:
• Santa Fe and Northeastern New Mexico: 1-866-451-2901
• Albuquerque and Northwestern New Mexico: 1-866-842-9230
• Las Cruces and Southern New Mexico: 1-800-762-8690
As New Mexico joins the national celebration of Residents’ Rights, I encourage community members to visit those they know in a long-term care facility, volunteer in a facility, participate in Residents’ Rights Month events or inquire about becoming a volunteer long-term care ombudsman.
Your assistance and attention helps to ensure that the voices of long-term care residents do not go unheard and demonstrates to residents that they have not been forgotten.
Sondra Everhart
State Long-Term Care
Aging and Long-Term
Services Department
Santa Fe