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MCVILLE, N.D. - Knowing your rights is important, but many seniors living in nursing homes may not know what those right are.

WDAY News went to one facility where seniors don’t have to fight for their rights.

At the care center in Nelson County, there are tons of activities each day.

"It's a wonderful place to be,” Resident Doris Schiele said.

With nearly 40 residents, there's always something to do.

"Bingo, knitting, reading, watering plants. I've got about 60 plants here,” Resident Joanie Ophaug said.

Joanie has two of her most prized possessions at the facility.

"My independence. My freedom,” Ophaug said.

While she's a success story, that's not always the case in long term care facilities.

"Yes I feel very comfortable talking to people if I have a problem. I always have somebody I can go to,” Ophaug said.

Many seniors don't have the help they need.

"I have had individual residents come to me regarding incidents of abuse or neglect,” Long-Term Care Ombudsman employee Sandra Brandvold said.

Sandra Brandvold's job is to help seniors in 13 counties, from rural Grand Forks to Rolette.

"The ombudsman receives complaints or concerns regarding the health, safety, welfare or the rights of residents. From there we will investigate and resolve to the satisfaction of the resident,” Brandvold said.

Whether it's concerns about care, finances or choosing what bedtime, Brandvold can help with it all.

"I can read when I want to I can make a mess with my plants if I want to. Nobody tells me what I want to do,” Ophaug said.

In Nelson County, there is even a residents council where they hold monthly meetings to talk about issues these seniors are facing.

"It helps them a lot. They can express their views,” Schiele said.

"They have a forum, a place where they could share their feelings without feeling they're going to be reprimanded. Or corrected or, where they're free. They're free to speak and we advocate for that among our elders,” Nelson County Health System employee Michele Ping said.

As many as 15 seniors show up each meeting. But here it's more like a family get together.

"There's a lot of laughter. A lot of fun as well,” Ping said.

"I mean we're human beings that are confined in a nursing home. Basically we don't have our freedom. But they make our rights so that we feel like we do,” Ophaug said.

A sense of freedom seniors say makes this place home.

October is Residents’ Rights Month. If you’d like to find more information for seniors, you can call Sandra Brandvold, of Long-Term Care Obudsman by dialing this number: (701) 665-2256

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