Elder Law for Residents in a Nursing Home

Residents in a nursing home have the same rights as any other citizen. In addition, many states have regulations and laws specifically for Nursing Home residents.  They have a right to privacy and dignity; and to participate in their healthcare plan. Living in an institution often makes an individual more dependent on others for their care, and they are particularly vulnerable if they’re disabled. Knowing the nursing home resident’s rights helps preserve personal dignity and protects against negligence or abuse.

The Nursing Home Reform Law, enacted by Congress in 1987, comprises part of Medicaid and Medicare regulations that ensure every nursing home resident receives access to any and all services that promote the highest quality of life possible. Here is a short list of rights a resident is entitled to receive while living at a nursing home facility.

Residents have a right to privacy regarding all aspects of living in the facility, including personal care, visitation with family and friends, and communication through phone and mail. A nursing home must include areas where telephone conversations and visits with family and friends facilitate privacy and uninterrupted visits.

A resident has a right to access his physician and medical records. The facility must provide the physician’s contact information, including the doctor’s name and specialty. The resident has a right to participate in planning his care, as well. Medical records must be made available within one business day.

The nursing home staff may not use unnecessary physical or chemical restraints, and may not administer anti-psychotic medication and sedatives unless the patient’s doctor orders them. Physical restraints such as hand mitts, seat belts or vests are prohibited.

The facility must provide a written description of state laws about living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care and provide a written explanation of how the facility carries out these directives.

Residents have a right to choose when to go to bed and get up. The nursing home staff is not permitted to assign bedtime or bathroom schedules; the resident determines her own personal routine.

Nursing home residents choose their meals. Facilities must offer a variety of meals to choose from at main meal times to appeal to different tastes, and residents may eat a variety of snacks at any time.

Dispute Resolution

If the nursing home experience falls short of the ideal, or worse, provides inadequate care that puts you or your loved one in danger, elder laws provide a vehicle for dispute resolution, depending on the severity of the problem. If concerns are not addressed following initial meetings with onsite supervisors, residents or their legal representatives have a right to schedule a special meeting with the nursing home personnel to resolve the problem. Every state offers independent ombudsperson help for complaints about quality of care and quality of life concerns such as unanswered call buttons, roommate conflicts, food and unsanitary conditions. All residents in a nursing home have a right to access this type of support after a first attempt at conflict resolution with facility staff has failed.