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Back to the Basics: Laws About Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

The federal Nursing Home Reform Act covers many of the rights that nursing home residents are guaranteed. These rights are codified in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 42- Public Health Law, Part 483.

These rights include:

The right to choose a doctor The right to receive advance information about treatment The right to be free from all kinds of nursing home abuse The right to obtain clinical records upon request The right to have notice before a room or roommate change happens The right of residents to manage their personal finances.

Many nursing home residents may feel overwhelmed by the focus on care planning and medication management and may wonder about their freedom, privacy, choices, sense of independence and control while living in a nursing home. Residents shouldn’t worry however, because there are both federal laws and state laws that protect the rights and civil liberties of nursing home residents.. For example, if a resident wants to visit with whomever they choose in their nursing home, this right is guaranteed. Likewise, if a resident wants to always wake up at a certain time and always wants to go to bed at a certain time, these rights are protected also.

Most nursing homes seek to allow residents the freedom to make their own decisions. Many people might wonder: how can nursing home staff ensure that all residents’ rights are protected when they are required to deal with so many people with vastly different medical needs? The fact is that living in a nursing home does not take away a senior citizen’s rights to make choices about their own life. Most people don’t realize it, but nursing home residents enjoy the constitutional freedom to associate with whomever they choose..

Ways that Nursing Home Residents Can Address Concerns
A nursing home resident who lives under the care of staff every day and feels dependent on them for their basic needs might be a little intimidated about approaching staff about problems that they are having which may infringe on their rights or their quality of life. What if a resident at a nursing home feels their privacy is violated because a staff member has been entering their room without knocking? What if a resident in a nursing home has a roommate who has trouble remembering to turn down the volume on their television set late at night? Even though these types of problems are not life-threatening, the residents involved have the right to have the staff at their nursing home address these issues. If a nursing home resident has a grievance, they should first document the situation in a written letter and include a brief statement of the facts along with the names and titles of the people involved. The resident should make sure that their letter includes a discussion of the effects that the particular problem are having on them.

Nursing Home Responses to Resident Concerns
If a resident at a nursing home has a problem that implicates their rights, most nursing homes will seek to quickly resolve the problem. Nursing home administrators may want the resident to talk directly to the department head who is in charge of that area of the nursing home. For example, if a resident has a dietary concern, the nursing home administrator may refer them to the food services supervisor.

A nursing home resident who has a problem that implicates their basic rights can also ask for a care planning conference or a special problem-solving meeting with the nursing home administrator. This type of meeting generally will involve all of the people at the nursing home who can offer solutions for solving the problem.

See Other Blog Posts:

White House Coordinates Senior Abuse Prevention

Secretary Sebelius on Fighting Elder Abuse