Nursing Home Resident Rights

Elder abuse and the proper care of the elderly have finally come out into the open in our society. If you are a Medicare or Medicaid recipient and you are living in a Medicare or Medicaid approved nursing home you have resident rights beyond your basic legal rights. Generally speaking, if you feel your rights have been violated in any way while living in a nursing home you have recourse through a complaint to the nursing home and if that doesn't produce results to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Nursing Home Resident rights include:

  • Physical rights
  • Rights to proper billing, accounting and money management
  • Right to proper custodial care
  • Right to socialization
  • Rights to prevent unfair discharge
  • Rights to social services

Residents' physical rights include not only the right to be free from physical, mental and sexual abuse but also a number of other things. For example, the nursing home is required to notify your family or legal representative if you are injured, have an accident, need to see a doctor or have medical complications or your needs change. Your physical rights also include the right to be free from physical or medical restraints. Furthermore all nursing facilities must meet basic health, safety and fire codes. Nursing homes are reviewed yearly and rated. Residents have a right to see the results of these safety and inspection reports.

Rights to proper billing, accounting and money management are almost as important as a patient's rights to proper physical care. These rights include that the nursing home must provided you with a copy of your resident rights in writing when you enter the nursing home. They are required to provide you this information in a language you understand. They must also explain to you your monetary responsibilities and give you an accurate accounting of billing in writing. If they have been placed in charge of your money they must handle it efficiently and in a financially sound manner.

Residents also have a right to proper custodial care. These include the right to wake and sleep when they want to, to be free from restraints, to have proper care related to hygiene and handling. There are also basic rights related to living arrangements. For example, patients have the right to private visits, private phone calls and to privacy for mail and e-mail. Patients also have a right to access personal property and to have their property protected from theft.

Socialization is one of the most important aspects of good health for seniors. Residents have a right to socialize and they may not be isolated against their will. Conversely they have a right to privacy and to alone time and they can't be forced to participate in activities against their will. Residents also have the right to live in the same room with their spouse if they are both together in the same nursing home.

One of the most important rights that a nursing home resident has is the right to remain in a facility. Residents can not be subjected to discharge or transfer against their will unless the facility has followed the rules related to discharge. Medicaid patients in particular have had problems with this in the past. You can only be transferred or moved out against your will if something arises that could negatively affect your health or the health of others. Similarly if your health has improved to the point where you no longer require care you may have to leave the nursing home and return to your home. If you are not able to pay your bills, the nursing home also has the right to ask you to leave. In all cases involving move or transfer, the patient has the right to appeal the decision and they must be informed at least 30 days prior to the suggested transfer or discharge date.

Nursing home residents also have the right to social services. The nursing home must provide staff that can help you to receive legal or financial counsel. They are also there to provide help with problems related to other residents or nursing home staff. Social service officers also help with a variety of other services including care planning and discharge management and planning.