How to choose a rest home and know your rights
At some point many of us will have to choose a rest home for ourselves or for a loved one. This is an important matter and it is essential that you feel comfortable with your decision.
In order to choose a rest home, you might begin by asking your doctor or your local hospital for recommendations of homes with good reputations.
You should make a thorough inspection of all the homes you visit and ask questions of the staff. As well as generally feeling comfortable with the home and its facilities, you should make sure you address a number of important specific questions.
What questions should I ask?
Some of the main questions you should ask are:
- Do the residents seem happy and well cared for?
- Do the staff appear to be friendly and responsive to residents? How many staff are on duty? What are their qualifications?
- Does the rest home have effective fire safety and other safety procedures? Is it secure from potential intruders?
- What type of medical and dental care is given? Is there a registered nurse on the premises at all times? Is a doctor on call at all times?
- Are the rooms comfortable? What facilities are provided in each room?
- What type of food is served? Is there a choice of food?
- What type of activities are available for residents?
- How much are the fees and what do these fees include?
- Is the rest home certified by some outside agency?
- Is the rest home a participant in the subsidy scheme run by Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ)? Rest homes in this scheme must meet certain conditions.
The Consumers' Institute provides a comprehensive checklist for choosing a rest home on its website at www.consumer.org.nz/other/restcheck.aspl.
What are my rights as a rest home resident?
Once you have chosen a home, you should be aware of your rights as a resident and ensure that they are being met at all times.
These include the right:
- to medical advice and treatment
- to the confidentiality of your personal records
- to manage your own financial affairs
- to have your personal requirements met
- to have visitors
- to participate in community activities and events
What should I do if these rights are breached?
If you feel that one of your rights as a rest home resident has been breached, you should first discuss the matter with the manager of the home.
If that does not resolve the matter, you may have grounds to make a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner if there has been a breach of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights. You can obtain a copy of the Code by phoning the Commissioner (0800 112 233) or you can read it on-line at the Commissioner's website (www.hdc.org.nz). A complaint to the Commissioner does not have to be in writing.
If the Health and Disability Commissioner does not have jurisdiction to deal with your complaint, you may have other courses of action. For example, if the confidentiality of your personal records has been breached, you may make a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner (phone 0800 803 909).
- If you are unsure about your rights as a rest home resident, you may wish to seek legal advice to ensure that your rights are being met and for advice on a course of action to take if they are not.