Are you or your aging loved one moving to a nursing home? If your answer is yes, it is very important to know the rights as a nursing home resident. The law provides certain rights to protect people who are living in Nursing homes.
Generally, nursing homes should list and give all the new residents a copy of these rights. However, if you or your aging loved one did not receive one, please make sure to read this article for your protection. It is also advisable that you talk to the facility administrator or representative to receive a copy of these rights.
What are my rights in a nursing home?
As a resident of a nursing home, you have the same rights and protections as all United States citizens. Each resident has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to people and services inside and outside the nursing home. These rights are specified in the Medicare program and can also vary under state law.
The nursing home must:
This must be done before or at the time you are admitted to the nursing home facility and also during your stay. You must acknowledge in writing that you received this information. Be sure to keep the information you get about your rights, admission and transfer policies, and any other information you get from the nursing home in case you need to look at it later.
At a minimum, Federal law specifies that a nursing home must protect and promote the following rights of each resident:
1. Freedom from Discrimination
- Nursing homes don’t have to accept all applicants as residents, but they must comply with Civil Rights laws that don’t allow discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age, or religion under certain conditions.
If you believe you have been discriminated against, call the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights at 1-800-368-1019. TTY users should call 1-800-587-7697.
- You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
- You have the right to make your own schedule, including when you go to bed, rise in the morning, and eat your meals.
- You have the right to choose the activities you want to go to.
Please note that the nursing home can’t interfere with, coerce, discriminate or retaliate against you in exercising your rights.
3. Freedom from Abuse and Neglect
- You have the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion by anyone.
This includes, but isn’t limited to, nursing home staff, other residents, consultants, volunteers, staff from other agencies, family members or legal guardians, friends, or other individuals.
If you feel you have been abused or neglected (your needs not met), report this to the nursing home, your family, your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or State Survey Agency. It may be appropriate to report the incident of abuse to local law enforcement or the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Their telephone number should be posted in the Nursing Home.
Under the law, the nursing home must investigate and report to the proper authorities all alleged violations and any injuries of unknown origin within five working days of the incident.
4. Freedom from Restraints:
- You have the right to refuse restraint, except if you are at risk of harming yourself or others.
It is very important to know that it is against the law for a nursing home to use physical or chemical restraints, unless they are necessary to treat your medical symptoms. Restraints may not be used for punishment, or for the convenience of the nursing home staff.
A physical restraint is any manual method or physical or mechanical device, material, or equipment attached or next to the resident’s body that the resident can’t remove easily, which restricts freedom of movement or normal access to one’s own body.
A chemical restraint is a drug that is used for discipline or convenience and not required to treat medical symptoms.
5. Information on Services and Fees
- You must be informed in writing about all facility services (those that are charged and not charged to you) and fees before you move into the nursing home.
- The nursing home can’t require a minimum entrance fee as a condition of admission if Medicare or Medicaid pays for your care.
- You must also be informed when any services and fees change.
- You also have the right to chose to either work or not work for the facility.
- You have the right to manage your own money or to choose someone you trust to do this for you.
If you ask the nursing home to hold, safeguard, manage, and account for your personal funds that are deposited with the facility, you must sign a written statement that allows the nursing home to do this. However, the nursing home can’t require you to deposit your personal funds with the facility and they must allow you access to your bank accounts, cash, and other financial records.
It is important to know that your money (over $50) must be placed by the nursing home in a separate account than the nursing home’s that will provide interest to you on your money. They have to have a system that ensures full accounting for those funds and must not mingle them with the nursing home’s or other residents’ funds.
If the nursing home puts many residents’ funds together, the nursing home must account for each person’s funds separately. They must give you quarterly statements and your individual financial record must be given to you when you or your legal representative asks for it.
The nursing home must protect your funds from any loss by buying a surety bond or providing other similar acceptable protections.
If a resident with a fund dies, the nursing home must return the funds with a final accounting to the person or court handling the resident’s estate within 30 days. Regarding Medicaid residents, the nursing home has to provide certain information regarding a resident with funds of certain balances.
7. Privacy, Property, and Living Arrangements
- You have the right to privacy and to keep and use your personal belongings and property as long as they don’t interfere with the rights, health, or safety of others.
- You have the right to send and receive mail and nursing home staff should never open your mail unless you allow it.
- You have the right to use a telephone and talk privately.
- Some nursing homes may provide you with greater rights and protections of your health information. Ask the nursing home.
- The nursing home must protect your property from theft. This may include a safe in the facility or cabinets with locked doors in resident rooms.
- If you and your spouse live in the same nursing home, you are entitled to share a room (if you both agree to do so).
- You have the right to reject a move to an inappropriate room. Please note that the nursing home has to notify you before your room or your roommate is changed.
- You also have the right to review the nursing home’s health and fire safety inspection results.
8. Medical Care
- You have the right to be fully informed in a language you understand about your total health status, including your medical condition and medications.
- You have the right to see your own doctor.
- You have the right to take part in developing your care plan.
- You can express any grievances you may have about your care and treatment.
- You have the right to create an advance directive.
- You have the right to self-administer medications unless the nursing home finds this unsafe.
- You have the right to refuse medications and treatments (but this could be harmful to your health) and refuse to participate in experimental treatment.
- You have the right to access all your records and reports, including clinical records (medical records and reports), within 24 hours.
- You have the right to photocopy your records for a standard fee when you provide two days notice to the nursing home.
✓ You are involved in an accident that resulted in an injury or may require a physician’s intervention.
✓ A deterioration of your health, mental, or psychosocial status in a life threatening condition or clinical complications.
✓ Your treatment needs to change significantly or
✓ When the nursing home decides to transfer or discharge you from the home.
- You have the right to spend private time with visitors.
- The nursing home must permit your family to visit you at any time, as long as you wish to see them.
- You don’t have to see any visitor you don’t wish to see. Any person who gives you help with your health, social, legal, or other services may see you at any reasonable time. This includes your doctor, representative from the health department, and your Long-Term Care Ombudsman, among others.
- The nursing home must provide you with any needed social services, including counseling, help solving problems with other residents, help in contacting legal and financial professionals, and discharge planning.
- They also have to provide you with an appropriate activities program designed to meet the needs of you and its residents.
- Living in a nursing home is your choice. You can choose to move to another place. However, the nursing home may have a policy that requires you to tell them before you plan to leave. If you don’t, you may have to pay them an extra fee.
- If you are going to another nursing home, make sure there is a bed available for you.
If your health allows and your doctor agrees, you can spend time away from the nursing home visiting friends or family during the day or overnight. This is called a leave of absence. Talk to the nursing home staff a few days ahead of time if you want to do this so medication and care instructions can be prepared.
Caution: If your nursing home care is covered by certain health insurance, you may not be able to leave for visits without losing your coverage.
- You have the right to make a complaint to the staff of the nursing home, or any other person, without fear of punishment.
- The nursing home must resolve the issue promptly.
You can’t be sent to another nursing home, or made to leave the nursing home, unless any of the following are true:
- It is necessary for the welfare, health, or safety of you or others.
- Your health has declined to the point that the nursing home can’t meet your care needs.
- Your health has improved to the point that nursing home care is no longer necessary.
- The nursing home hasn’t been paid for services you received
- The nursing home closes
Please note that except in emergencies, nursing homes must give a 30-day written notice of their plan and reason to discharge or transfer you. They have to safely and orderly transfer or discharge you and give you proper notice of bed-hold and/or readmission requirements. You have the right to appeal a transfer to another facility. A nursing home can’t make you leave if you are waiting to get Medicaid. The nursing home should work with other state agencies to get payment if a family member or other individual is holding your money.
- Family members and legal guardians may meet with the families of other residents and may participate in family councils.
- By law, nursing homes must develop a plan of care (care plan) for each resident.
- You have the right to take part in this process, and family members can help with your care plan with your permission.
- If your relative is your legal guardian, he or she has the right to look at all medical records about you and make important decisions on your behalf.
- Family and friends can help make sure you get good quality care. They can visit and get to know the staff and the nursing home’s rules.
- You have a right to form a resident group to discuss issues and concerns about the nursing home’s policies and operations.
Most home have such groups, often called a resident council. The home must give you meeting space, and must listen to and act upon grievances and recommendations of the group.
For people seeking admission to the nursing home, the nursing home must provide (orally and in writing) and prominently display written information about how to apply for and use Medicare and Medicaid benefits. They must also provide information on how to receive refunds for previous payments covered by such benefits.
- Types of Senior Care Homes
- Senior Care Facility Checklist
- Choosing The Right Senior Care Home
- Tips When Visiting Seniors in A Nursing Home
- Transitioning From Assisted Living To Nursing Home
Source: Department of Health and Human Services
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