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Nursing Home Placement – Know Your Rights

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In 1987, Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Law. In a nutshell, the law is designed to ensure that nursing home residents are provided whatever they need to function at the highest possible level.

Whether you choose to reside in a nursing home, or circumstances require that you make the move, it’s a fact that you may give up a certain level of autonomy. This can lead to lapses in care. Understanding your rights as a nursing home resident is paramount to ensure that you receive the care you need and deserve. This article will walk you through those rights and provide you with resources to also ensure that you are not taken advantage of.

Nursing Home Resident’s Rights

In 1987, Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Law. In a nutshell, the law is designed to ensure that nursing home residents are provided whatever they need to function at the highest possible level. Specifically, the law provides the following rights:

  1. Unnecessary Physical and Chemical Restraints. Unless authorized by a physician, and only for a limited time, nursing home facilities may not restrain residents using sedatives or other chemical restraints, or seatbelts, gloves and other physical restraints.
  2. Contact with Physician. Nursing home facilities must provide residents with the contact information for their primary care physician and allow them to participate in care planning meetings.
  3. Communication Regarding Health and Treatment. If the resident’s health deteriorates, or if a physician deems a change in treatment necessary, the facility must inform the resident, the primary care physician and the resident’s legal representative or designated family member.
  4. Right to Medical Records. If a resident requests their medical records, the facility must provide them within one business day and at a cost that is reasonable within the community. In addition, the facility must explain how to access the records and/or transfer authority to another person.
  5. Notification of Rights. Nursing home facilities must provide residents with a written copy of:
    1. their legal rights
    2. state laws about advance directives, living wills and durable power of attorney for healthcare
    3. the nursing home’s policies on carrying out the directives.
  6. Notification of Services. Nursing home facilities must provide residents with a list of services (and fees) provided by the facility at the time of admission and during their stay. Any services or rates not disclosed in advance, may not be charged to the resident.
  7. Right to Privacy. Nursing home residents have the right to privacy in all matters, including:
    1. Visiting family and friends
    2. Personal needs
    3. Making phone calls
    4. Sending mail
  8. Right to Assemble. Nursing home residents must be able to share a room with their spouse, gather with other residents without staff present, and to meet with a local or state ombudsman, law enforcement, or other official representatives without staff interference or presence.
  9. Right to Leave. Nursing home residents may leave the facility for any reason and may belong to a church or other social group.
  10. Right to Manage Finances. Nursing home residents have the right to manage their own finances and must not be required to deposit funds with the nursing home.
  11. Individual Preferences. Nursing home residents have the right to choose when to get up or go to sleep, when they have snacks, what they eat, what they wear and how they spend their time. The nursing home must offer a variety of choices at main meals to accommodate different tastes. Nursing home residents also have the right to administer their own medications and go to the bathroom, whenever they want.
  12. Personal Possessions. Nursing home residents have the right to bring any personal possessions to the nursing home, such as clothing, jewelry and furnishings. Staff must assist in safeguarding these items and assist in locating them, should they become lost.
  13. Nursing home staff must treat residents with respect at all times. Residents are expected to be treated as adults.
  14. Changing Locations. Before a resident can be moved to a different room or facility, they must be notified and afforded time to appeal. The facility must show that the move is in the resident’s best interest or is necessary to the health of other residents.
  15. Freedom from Interference. All nursing home residents have the right to exercise their rights without interference, coercion or backlash for exercising their rights. Nursing home staff are expected to assist residents in raising concerns and helping to resolve concerns.

This is an overview of nursing home resident’s rights. For a full list of nursing home resident rights, check out the ombudsman’s list.

For more information on nursing home resident’s rights or to report an incident and receive help, visit the long term care ombudsman’s office.

Resources:

ElderLawAnswers. “The Rights of Nursing Home Residents” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://www.elderlawanswers.com/the-rights-of-nursing-home-residents-12149

National Consumer Voice. “Nursing Home Resident’s Rights.” (Accessed November 29, 2019)  https://ltcombudsman.org/uploads/files/support/Module-2.pdf

National Consumer Voice.National Ombudsman Reporting System” (Accessed November 29, 2019) https://ltcombudsman.org/omb_support/nors

Suggested keywords: Nursing Home Resident’s Rights, rights as a nursing home resident

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