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Miami Herald

Respect elders' rights

Oct. 08, 2009

Today, more than 160,000 Floridians live in nursing homes or similar long-term care settings, and many are unaware of their rights and the resources available to protect and defend them.

Every October, Florida's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program secures a gubernatorial proclamation of Residents' Rights Month.

The occasion calls attention to the fundamental rights of Florida's most frail elders to be treated with dignity and respect and to have a say in decisions affecting their care.

The Ombudsman Program is a government-funded resource available to help defend residents' rights and ensure their safety and well-being. Sadly, a volunteer ombudsman is sometimes the only visitor or voice a nursing home or assisted living facility resident has.

I encourage community members to visit someone they know in an assisted living facility, volunteer in a nursing home, participate in a Residents' Rights Month event (ombudsman.myflorida.com) or inquire about volunteering with the ombudsman program.

We can improve the lives of these citizens who have given so much.

BRIAN LEE, state long-term care ombudsman, Department of Elder Affairs, Tallahassee