HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Aging is encouraging all Pennsylvanians to observe National Residents’ Rights Month during October to recognize individuals living in long-term care facilities.
The theme for this year’s National Residents’ Rights Month is “Speak Out Against Elder Abuse!” The goal is to raise awareness of the signs of elder abuse and how to report it in order to maintain the dignity and health of every resident.
“Prevention and protection form the foundation for all of the department’s programs,” said Secretary of Aging Brian Duke. “This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of recognizing and addressing the serious issue of elder abuse through immediate action, facility practices, public policy and resident-centered decision- making.”
The Department of Aging works with volunteers throughout the year to prevent and educate people about elder abuse. Approximately 2,000 volunteer ombudsmen, including more than 500 residents of long-term care facilities, serve as Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents, or PEERs. They are trained to advocate for themselves and their fellow residents.
“The State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is designed to support and empower people by resolving individual complaints involving long-term care services,” said Wilmarie Gonzalez, director of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. “They work to improve and enhance the long-term living system for the residents and their families.”
The Department of Aging partners with the 52 Area Agencies on Aging to provide ombudsman services to long term-care facilities. Ombudsmen, volunteers and PEERs will be using materials developed by the State Long Term Care Ombudsman Office to raise awareness about resident rights during this month.
Anyone can confidentially report elder abuse by calling the 24-hour statewide Elder Abuse hotline at 1-800-490-8505, or by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging.
For more information on the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman and PEER program, visit www.aging.state.pa.us