Resident Rights

Resident’s in skilled nursing facilities (SNF) the formal term for nursing homes, are afforded many rights if their facility is certified by Medicare or Medicaid. These resident rights apply even if a particular resident’s care is privately paid for and they do not receive any benefits from Medicare or Medicaid. Since the overwhelming majority of facilities in the U.S. receive money from Medicare or Medicaid, virtually every resident of a nursing home has these basic rights.

Federal law requires that homes protect AND promote resident rights. These rights include:

The Right to Be Treated with Respect – This fundamental right includes such things as making your own schedule and participate in the activities you want. Importantly a resident has the right to decided when to go to sleep, when to wake up and when to eat.

The Right to Participate in Activities – You have the right to participate in a program of activities designed to meet your needs.

The Right to Be Free From Discrimination – While homes are not required to accept all applicants they must follow all state and federal discrimination laws.

The Right to Complain – The home or the staff may not punish or cause resident’s to fear punishment for making a complaint. This right also requires the home to address the complaint promptly.

The Right to Be Free from Abuse and Neglect – Besides the obvious, the right not to be verbally, sexually, physically or mentally abused, a nursing home resident also has the right to not be kept away from everyone else against their will. Of course this right can be limited to protect the health and/or safety of others. Additionally, this right prevents the abuse of money and personal property.

The Right to Be Free from Restraints – Physical or chemical restraints cannot be used as as a form of punishment or to make things easier for the staff. This includes things like using bed rails or drugs for the staff’s convenience.

The Right to Receive Proper Medical Care – This broad right includes things like:

  • The right to be fully informed of your complete health condition in language you can understand;
  • The right to be involved in the choice of your doctor;
  • The right to participate in decisions affecting your car;
  • The right to develop care plans;
  • The right to access all of your records promptly;
  • The right to create advance directives, like living wills, do not resuscitate orders, etc. in accordance with State law; and,
  • The right to refuse experimental treatment.

The Right to Have Your Representative Notified – This rights includes requiring the home to notify your doctor and legal representative or family member under certain circumstances. These include when you are injured, when you need to see a doctor, when your condition worsens, when you have a life threatening condition, when you have complications, when your treatment changes significantly, and when the home decides to transfer or discharge you. Read about the limited circumstances when someone can be discharged from a nursing home.

The Right to Manage Your Money – You have the right to do this yourself or designate someone you trust to do this for you. This includes the requirement that the home give you access to your accounts, make sure that your money is not mixed with the home’s money, that your money is reasonably protected, and, if you pass away, that your money is returned to your estate within 30 days.

The Right to Have Visitors – You have the right to visitors, in private, anytime you wish as long as it does not interfere with the rights of other residents.

The Right to Privacy – This right includes the obvious, like the right to have private visits, keep personal belongings, have private calls and get and send mail. It also includes the right to live with your spouse if you are both in the same home and you both agree and the right to consider your roommate preferences. It also includes the right to review the inspection reports of the home.

The Right to Services – The home must provide needed services like counseling, solving problems with other residents, contacting legal and financial professionals and planning for your discharge.

The Right to Leave the Home – You have the right to leave the home for visits subject to your doctors agreement and requirements of your insurance. You have the right to move out of the home. Of course, you may have to notify the home in advance or you may have to pay an extra fee. Here is a link to more information about your rights.

The Right to Join or Form Groups with Other Residents – You have the right to join in a resident group that discusses issues about how the home operates and the policies it has in place. If such a group does not exist you have the right to start one. The home has to give you a place to meet and must act upon the complaints and suggestions of the group.

The Right to Have Others Involved – As long as they have your permission a home must allow your family and friends to help make sure you get good care.

You have the Right to Not be Unfairly Transferred or Discharged – There are a limited number of circumstances under which you can be forced to leave a nursing home against your will. A home MY NOT discharge or transfer you simply because you assert your rights. In fact a home can only discharge you to protect yourself or others, you no longer need nursing home care because you have gotten better, the home has not been paid or the home closes.
This list is not meant to be all inclusive. There are other rights nursing home residents have.

These basic rights manifest themselves in many important ways that cannot be easily listed. Additional there are times when some of these rights come into tension with what may be in the best medical interests of the resident. For example, a resident may not want be woken in from their sleep to take medication prescribed by a physician. Your rights may also be subject to the rights of other residents.

If a resident, or a loved one responsible for them, believes that their rights may have been violated, there are several ways to report or evolve the problem. This includes talking to the staff or administration. Every home is required to have a grievance procedure. Problems can also be reported directly to a number of outside groups. Each home is required to post the name and address of a number of groups. These can include the State Agency responsible for inspecting (surveying) the home, the State Liscensing Office, the Ombudsman Program for the State and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. HERE is a and other information about resolving complaints.


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