The Rights of Nursing Home Patients

No one should be afraid to lose his or her autonomy when entering a nursing home. A nursing home is not a jail. Nursing home residents have rights which the nursing home must legally respect. Many of these rights were granted to nursing home residents in the Nursing Home Reform Amendments of OBRA 1987. Those rights include:
·         The Right to Live Without Abuse or Neglect: No resident should be physically abused, mentally abused, or neglected while in a nursing home. This includes the unwarranted use of medication, physical restraints and seclusion for reasons other than medical necessity. Medication and restraints may only be used upon the written recommendation of a medical doctor and if they are necessary to treat the resident’s medical symptoms or ensure his safety.
·         The Right to Receive Medical Care: Every resident has the right to receive medical care from the physician of his or her choice. Every resident has the right to be informed about the medical options and to refuse any treatment or medication.
·         The Right to Privacy: this includes both medical and personal privacy. Medical conversations and records must be kept confidential. Residents also have the right to have private written and verbal communications with whomever they chose.    Residents may also decide which religious, community and familial functions they will participate in if they are physically able to do so.
·         The Right to be Informed about the Costs of Your Care: Residents are responsible for the costs of their care. Therefore, they are entitled to understand what those costs are and whether they are reimbursable by Medicaid or private insurance.
·         The Right to Make Your Own Decisions: this includes the right to choose your own physician and to make informed decisions about your own medical care. It also includes the right to form or join social groups with other residents of the facility. Nursing homes are required to allow social groups to form among residents and to allow residents to participate in activities which are safe for them given their medical limitations.
·         The Right to Entertain Visitors: Residents have the right to immediate visits from their personal physician and from relatives. Other visitors must be permitted “subject to reasonable restriction.”
·         The Right to Transfer or Leave the Facility with Proper Notice: residents have the right to remain in the facility unless their transfer is required because the facility can no longer meet their needs or because their presence threatens the safety of other residents. Prior notice is required. 30 days prior notice is preferred but that time may be shortened in an emergency situation.
There are, unfortunately, nursing homes in the United States that do not honor all of these resident rights. These nursing homes are not only acting unethically but also exposing themselves to legal risk because residents may sue nursing homes that violate their rights. 
Residents, relatives and nursing homes should work together to make sure that all of the resident rights are consistently honored and that residents are consistently respected and well cared for in our nation’s nursing homes.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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