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.
- Nursing home residents have the right to see
family members, ombudspersons or other resident advocates, physicians,
service providers, and representatives of the state and federal government.
- Residents may keep and use their personal
possessions and clothing unless doing so would endanger health and safety.
- Residents have the right to apply for and receive
Medicare and Medicaid benefits and cannot be asked to leave a home because
they receive such benefits.
- A nursing home must treat all individuals the
same, regardless of whether they are private payers or Medicare or Medicaid
- Residents have the right to keep their clinical
and personal records confidential.
- Residents are entitled to lists of what services
are paid by Medicare and Medicaid and the additional services for which the
residents will be charged, plus the fees for those services.
- Nursing home residents have the right to choose
their own personal physician.
- Residents have the right to be fully informed
about their medical care.
- Residents have the right to participate in the
planning of their care and treatment.
- Nursing home residents have the right to refuse
- Residents have the right to be free from mental
and physical abuse.
- Nursing home residents cannot be kept apart from
other residents against their will.
- Residents cannot be tied down or given drugs to
restrain them if restraint is not necessary to treat their medical symptoms.
- Residents have the right to raise grievances and
have them resolved quickly.
- Residents may participate in social, religious,
and community activities to the extent that they do not interfere with the
rights of other residents.
- Residents cannot be required to deposit their
personal funds with the nursing home, and if they request that the home
manage their funds, the home must do so according to state and federal
- Residents have the right to privacy, including in
their rooms, medical treatment, communications, visits, and meetings with
family and resident groups.
- Residents have the right to review their medical
records within twenty-four hours of making a request.
- Nursing home residents have the right to review
the most recent state inspection report relating to the home.
- Residents must be given notice before their room
or roommate is changed, and residents can refuse the transfer if the purpose
is to move them from a Medicare bed to a Medicaid bed or vice versa.
- Residents have the right to stay in the nursing
home and can only be removed if it is necessary for the resident's welfare,
the resident no longer needs the facility's services, it is necessary to
prevent harm to the health or safety of others in the facility, the resident
fails to pay after reasonable notice, or the facility ceases to operate.
- Nursing home residents and their representatives
have the right to thirty days' notice of a proposed transfer or discharge,
and they have the right to appeal.
- Before transferring residents for hospitalization
or therapy, the nursing home must inform them of the length of time that
their beds will be held open for their return, called the "bedhold period."
- Nursing home residents returning from a hospital
or therapeutic leave after expiration of the bedhold period have the right
to be readmitted as soon as the first semi-private bed becomes available.
- Residents must be informed of their rights upon
admission, and must be given their rights in writing if so requested.