Legal Rights of Nursing Home Residents

Nursing homes have been defined as private institutions that furnish shelter, feeding and care for sick, aged, or infirm persons. They are not strictly considered hospitals, in that they do not necessarily render actual medical treatment, but may be considered hospitals for certain purposes, depending on various statutes that may govern their operation.

Federal regulations distinguish among four types of health care facilities, starting with those that offer the lowest level of nursing care, "adult boarding facilities," then "residential care facilities," "intermediate care facilities," and finally, those that offer the highest level of nursing care -- "skilled nursing facilities." Different standards apply depending on how an institution is classified. State and federal governments regulate skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities, particularly with respect to their participation in Medicare and Medicaid. National standards for nursing homes serving as "extended care facilities" are contained in the Federal Medicare Health Insurance Program for the Aged.

Under federal guidelines, each nursing facility must develop and implement written policies and procedures prohibiting mistreatment, neglect, or abuse of residents. A resident in such a nursing facility is entitled to receive verbal and written notice of the rights and services to which he or she is entitled during his/her stay in the facility. This notice must be give prior to or upon admission, and periodically throughout the resident's stay, in a language the resident understands. The resident must acknowledge his or her receipt of such notice in writing.