Christine Stuart photo
The administration at Riverside Health and Rehabilitation Center may have an open-door complaint policy, but Mary Frost knows firsthand that’s not true of all nursing facilities.

Frost, 72, who has lived at Riverside for the past five years, has been fighting for eight years to make sure patients are protected if they complain about a staff member. Her crusade finally ended this year when the General Assembly passed legislation that requires staff training to include a course on patient’s fear of retaliation.

On Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy visited the 345-bed East Hartford nursing home for a ceremonial bill signing.

“With one of the largest aging populations in the United States, Connecticut has one of the highest rates of seniors in nursing homes,” Malloy said.

He said those living in a supportive living facility have the right to live with dignity and in a secure environment where they feel comfortable making a complaint.

“Research has found that nearly 25 percent of nursing home residents in Connecticut believe they have been abused or they have witnessed abuse,” Malloy said. “More troubling is that only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse are ever brought to the attention of authorities.”

“Mary, you were the brave one,” he added.

The legislation requires that the annual staff trainings include instruction on a patient’s right to file complaints or to otherwise voice grievances, examples of what may be perceived as employee retaliation against patients, and ways to prevent and alleviate patients’ fear of retaliation.

State officials said the legislation makes Connecticut a leader on recognizing the need for education and training about fear of retaliation in nursing homes.

“If residents have legitimately complained while in the nursing home, this is the kind of bill they hope for, so they can be assured of no retaliation from staff or administrators,” Aging Commissioner Edith Prague said.