Nursing Homes: Resident Rights

Nursing Home Rights

Nursing Home Resident Rights

Nursing home residents have several protected rights, collectively known as the resident's bill of rights. Assisted living facilities must provide its residents with a legible and clear list of these legal rights, including respect, self-determination and communication outside and within the facility. Under federal law, residents must acknowledge in writing that they have read and understood this information.

Elderly residents must also be given several freedoms. Nursing homes cannot discriminate against residents because of race, color, religion, nationality, disability or age. Residents have the right to be treated with respect and be free of involuntary seclusion, neglect and physica, sexual, emotional, financial, psychological, and verbal abuse. Medical professionals may not restrain residents unless medically necessary or crucial to avoid self-injury. Under federal regulations, nursing home staff cannot restrain a patient for punishment or convenience. Chemical restraints can only legally be used to treat a symptom or disease. In addition to these freedoms, there are three types of resident rights as follows.

  • Being aware of health status, medications and conditions
  • Self-administering drugs if deemed safe
  • Having medical records kept in strict confidence
  • Refusing medications and/or treatments
  • Refusing participation in experimental studies
  • Refusing to be involved in services not included in the care plan
  • Accessing medical reports and files
  • Seeing a primary physician
  • Expressing concerns about treatment or care
  • Sending and receiving mail
  • Keeping and using personal belongings unless harmful
  • Using the telephone
  • Accessing fire and health inspection results
  • Sharing a room with a spouse
  • Privacy when a spouse visits
  • Being aware of impending roommate change
  • Refusing an improper room
  • Handling money
  • Allowing a trusted individual to handle money
  • Giving the nursing home written consent to handle funds
  • Receiving quarterly statements of funds
  • Being aware of facility fees

In addition, the nursing home must inform the resident's physician and involved family members if treatment changes significantly, an accident occurs in the facility, medical conditions have become life-threatening or if the assisted living facility transfers or releases the resident. Federal law offers residents protection against being discharged from the facility. Written noticed must be supplied to the patient no less than 30 days before the removal or transfer. The resident holds the right to appeal a switch in assisted living facilities. Nursing homes cannot eject or transfer patients unless:

  • Health has improved or declined to a point where nursing care is no longer needed
  • Health will benefit from transfer/discharge
  • Nursing home closes
  • Services weren't paid

Additional resident rights include:

  • Making a complaint to staff members without fear of punishment
  • Switching nursing homes
  • Taking a leave of absence to visit family or friends, health permitting
  • Having visitors
  • Forming resident groups
  • Knowing of all facility services
  • Accessing counseling and social services, including legal, financial and ombudsman services

In addition to these resident rights, the nursing facilities must meet the basic requirements of the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987.