Lepke fights for residents’ rights

Middle Alabama Area Agency on Aging Ombudsman Alicia Lepke speaks during an Oct. 18 Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club lunch at Shelby Baptist Medical Center. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Adults do not give up any rights when moving from their homes to a long-term care facility, Middle Alabama Area Agency on Agency Ombudsman Alicia Lepke told members of the Alabaster-Pelham Rotary Club during an Oct. 18 lunch.

During the lunch, Lepke said she and M4A advocate for residents in long-term care facilities in Shelby, Blount, St. Clair, Walker and Chilton counties. She said she provides oversight for 16 nursing homes, 20 assisted-living facilities and eight specialty care facilities, which adds up to 2,500 beds.

Through her job, Lepke works to protect long-term care facility residents’ rights and “assure fair and equal treatment,” she said.

“I speak on behalf of those who can’t speak for themselves,” she said. “Your health should not decline because of a lack of care or neglect.”

Lepke said every resident in a long-term care facility has a right to dignity and respect, privacy, accommodation of needs, participation in activities and freedom of choice. She said everyone should be able to “raise a complaint without fear of retaliation or coercion.”

When those rights are denied, residents can call Lepke and M4A. After receiving a report, Lepke travels to the long-term care facility in an attempt to substantiate the claim, she said.

Lepke also works to make long-term care facility residents aware of their rights, serves as a mediator between patients, their families and care facilities and helps to ensure the residents’ rights are upheld.

“I hope that with my help, and the help of many others, that we can make these environments more resident-centered and homelike,” Lepke said.