The Legal Rights of Nursing Home Residents

The legal rights of nursing home residents

Residents in nursing homes depend on doctors, nurses, staff members, aides, and volunteers to provide essential care and companionship. Sadly, the basic rights of nursing home residents are not always respected. Nursing home residents are sometimes subjected to substandard care, mistreatment, and even abuse.

Thankfully, there are a number of federal and state laws that are designed to protect residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Many of these laws were enacted during the past two decades in response to a dramatic increase in the incidence of nursing home injuries and abuse, which coincided with the growing older population.

This post will discuss some of the legal rights of nursing home residents. It is for information purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. If you are concerned that your loved one’s rights have been violated, contact the appropriate government agency or an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer right away.

Federal Laws Protecting Nursing Home Residents

There are a number of federal laws which afford nursing home residents certain protections. To learn more about each law, click on the links below.

Title XX of the Social Security Act: This program provides federal funds to the states so that they can provide community-based care for the elderly and disabled. As part of Title XX, efforts aimed at preventing abuse and neglect of nursing home residents also receive federal funding.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: Begun in 1972, the Ombudsman Program today exists in all states and the District of Columbia. Each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, which assists nursing home residents and their families resolve issues associated with long-term care. The Ombudsman’s office in each state investigates complaints about nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation. For more information: The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.

Nursing Home Reform Act: Signed into law in 1987, this program helps ensure that nursing home residents receive quality levels of basic care. As a result of the Nursing Home Reform Act, each nursing home resident is the beneficiary of a “Resident’s Bill of Rights.” These rights include:

  • The right to be free from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect;
  • The right to be free from physical restraints;
  • The right to privacy;
  • The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs;
  • The right to participate in resident and family groups;
  • The right to be treated with dignity;
  • The right to exercise self-determination;
  • The right to communicate freely;
  • The right to participate in the formulation and review of one’s care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility; and
  • The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.

Nursing homes found to be in violation of the Nursing Home Reform Act may be subject to a variety of penalties, including significant monetary fines and forced replacement of nursing home managers.

State Laws Protecting Nursing Home Residents

The federal programs discussed above rely heavily on the individual states for implementation and oversight. In your area, there are likely a number of state and community agencies that are responsible for the monitoring of nursing home conditions as well as the imposition of penalties if environments or care are substandard.

If you are concerned about your loved one’s well-being, you should contact your local Adult Protective Services (“APC”) agency. APC programs exist in every state, and serve to benefit adults with disabilities and the elderly in general. Typically, law enforcement agencies contact APS when they learn about nursing home abuse or neglect. APS will conduct an investigation into the claims and take the appropriate steps to protect victims of abuse.

Under the laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, any type of physical abuse of a nursing home resident is a crime. If the situation warrants, the offenders will be prosecuted just like any perpetrator of a crime. Consumer protection laws at the state level may also apply if your loved one has been the victim of financial exploitation, fraud, or deceptive marketing.

To learn more about the rights of nursing home residents, click here.

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