Patient safety in nursing homes has turned into a hot-button issue, and the state of Connecticut implemented a strategy this week to give residents more rights and better protection against retaliation.

Reported by WTNH, the state’s Bill of Right for Nursing Home Residents, enforced by the Connecticut Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP), came about after a resident living in homes for the past 13 years came forward.

While the individual nursing homes and residential care communities have their own open-door complaint systems, nothing had been applied on a state level. To WTNH, the resident spoke about food being late or “lost” and having workers retaliate against her for basic complaints regarding care.

Gov. Malloy signed the bill into law on October 8 at the Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center in East Hartford, and during the event, he stated: “With one of the largest aging populations in the United States, Connecticut has one of the highest rates of seniors in nursing homes. Research has found that nearly 25 percent of nursing home residents in Connecticut believe they have been abused or they have witnessed abuse. More troubling is that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are ever brought to the attention of authorities.”

With the new measure in place and training manuals, Connecticut nursing homes must train workers regarding common patient fears, such as retaliation, and patients’ right about filing complaints and voicing concerns.

The Connecticut LTCOP, mandated by the Federal Older Americans’ Act and Connecticut General Statute 17b-400, focuses on protecting the rights and quality of rights for residents in nursing facilities, care homes, and assisted living communities. The Regional Ombudsman serves to voice residents’ concerns and ensure patients’ rights are being upheld, and is there for individual consultation, complaint resolution, and working with state agencies and advocacy organizations.