Feature Article  


Guide to Nursing Home Residents' Rights

nursing home abuse, nursing home neglect, NURSING HOME ABUSE, NURSING HOME NEGLECT

The Problem.
More than 1.5 million elderly and disabled Americans reside in more than 16,000 nursing homes across this country.  Despite the fact that by law, these nursing homes must take steps to attain or maintain the "highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident," too many of these residents are the victims of neglect or abuse by these facilities and/or their employees.


Consider a 1998 study by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) which concluded that more than half of the suspicious deaths studied in California nursing homes were likely due to neglect, including malnutrition and dehydration.  The study further found that nearly 1 in 3 California nursing homes had been cited by state inspectors for "serious or potentially life-threatening care problems."  The GAO report noted that these same problems can likely be found across the nation.   Despite increased regulatory oversight of the nation's nursing homes, it is safe to assume that many violations posing threats to the health and safety of the residents go unreported.  Nursing home inspectors simply cannot be everywhere at all times.  Therefore, family members with loved ones who are residents of nursing homes must never take the resident's care for granted and assume adequate protections are in place.  The nursing home resident's only protection may be the family member's diligence in reporting any perceived problems. 

The Law.
Residents of nursing homes are guaranteed certain rights under both federal and state law.  Nursing homes must meet residents' rights requirements in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.  Because the government inspectors cannot be everywhere at all times, it is up to others, such as the families of residents, with the help of private attorneys and advocacy groups, to guarantee that the following rights of nursing home residents and the elderly are protected.

Each and every nursing home resident has the following rights under law:
  • to be provided services to see that the resident attains or maintains the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being;
  • to be free from abuse and exploitation;
  • to safe, decent, and clean conditions;
  • to be treated with courtesy, consideration, and respect;
  • to not be subjected to discrimination based on age, race, religion, sex, nationality, or disability and to practice the resident's own religious beliefs;
  • to privacy, including privacy during visits and telephone calls;
  • to complain about the institution and to organize or participate in any program that presents residents ' concerns to the administrator of the institution;
  • to have information about the resident in the possession of the institution maintained as confidential;
  • to retain the services of a physician the resident chooses, at the resident's own expense or through a health care plan, and to have a physician explain to the resident, in language that the resident understands, the resident's complete medical condition, the recommended treatment, and the expected results of the treatment;
  • to participate in developing a plan of care, to refuse treatment, and to refuse to participate in experimental research;
  • to a written statement or admission agreement describing the services provided by the institution and the related charges;
  • to manage the resident's own finances or to delegate that responsibility to another person;
  • to access money and property that the resident has deposited with the institution and to an accounting of the resident's money and property that are deposited with the institution and of all financial transactions made with or on behalf of the resident;
  • to keep and use personal property, secure from theft or loss;
  • to not be relocated within the institution, except in accordance with nursing home regulations;
  • to receive visitors;
  • to receive unopened mail and to receive assistance in reading or writing correspondence;
  • to participate in activities inside and outside the institution;
  • to wear the resident's own clothes;
  • to discharge himself or herself from the institution unless the resident is an adjudicated mental incompetent;
  • to not be discharged from the institution except as provided in nursing home regulations; and,
  • to be free from any physical or chemical restraints imposed for the purposes of discipline or convenience, and not required to treat the resident's medical symptoms.

The foregoing rights may only be restricted to the extent necessary to protect a right of another resident (particularly a right relating to privacy and confidentiality) or to protect the resident or another person from danger or harm.







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