Before 1987, many residents of American nursing homes did not receive adequate care. Many were the victims of neglect and abuse. Congress created the Nursing Home Reform Act to address these issues. If you have a loved one who is a resident or about to become a resident of a nursing home, you need to know – what are patient’s rights in nursing homes?
Every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program to advocate for the rights of residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Ombudsmen can help champion your rights, when you live in a nursing home.
If a nursing home receives any funding from Medicare or Medicaid, it must provide quality care that will support the well-being of each resident. Every resident must receive certain services. The Residents’ Bill of Rights protects every nursing home patient.
The Residents’ Bill of Rights provides eight fundamental protections and rights for nursing home residents. The nursing home must give every new patient a copy of these rights. These rights include:
- The right to be fully informed. Before you move in, the nursing home must give you a written list of the costs for all services. You must receive a copy of the facility rules and regulations, and the address and phone number of your state’s Ombudsman Program.
- The right to complain. The nursing home must allow you to complain to the ombudsman program, the state agency and the certification agency. When you bring a grievance to the staff, the nursing home must try to resolve the complaint promptly. They are not allowed to retaliate against you for making a grievance.
- The right to participate in your own care. You have the right to receive quality care and to be an active participant in your medical care and treatment. This protection includes the right to refuse medication, treatments and chemical or physical restraints.
- The right to privacy and confidentiality. You are allowed to communicate with whomever you want. You are to have privacy about your personal needs as well as medical or financial matters.
- Rights during transfers and discharges. The nursing home can only transfer or discharge you against your will, under certain limited circumstances. When the nursing home transfers or discharges you, it must strictly follow legal requirements.
- The right to freedom and to be treated with dignity and respect. The nursing home must treat you with respect and dignity. The nursing home is not allowed to use corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion or physical or chemical restraints on you.
- The right to visits. You may have visits from any friend, relative or others you choose. Your doctor can visit you. State agency representatives and service-providing organizations can visit you. You also have the right to refuse visitors.
- The right to make independent choices. No one can dictate your personal choices to you. You get to choose what you wear and how you spend your days. You are allowed to be as involved as you like in activities inside and outside of the nursing home. You are allowed to manage your own money. The nursing home cannot require that you use a doctor of their choosing. You may be active in a Resident Council. If your nursing home does not have one, you can start one.
When nursing home residents receive the respect and care they deserve, their golden years are more enjoyable. Talk with an elder law attorney in your area for advice on how to best protect your aging loved ones.
AARP. “The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act.” (accessed August 8, 2017) http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/livable-communities/info-2001/the_1987_nursing_home_reform_act.html
Medicare.gov. “Resident rights.” (accessed August 8, 2017) https://www.medicare.gov/NursingHomeCompare/Resources/Resident-Rights.html
The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. “Residents’ Rights.” (accessed August 8, 2017) http://ltcombudsman.org/issues/residents-rights