What Everyone Should Know About Residents' Rights in Nursing Homes
U.S. Government Publication Number 37283E-4-98

 

WHAT ARE RESIDENTS’ RIGHTS?

They’re rights that help ensure quality of care – and quality of life – for residents of long-term care facilities (“long term care facility” refers to skilled nursing facilities, SNFs, health-related facilities, HRFs and intermediate care facilities, ICFs). These rights include:

Legal Rights: the protection guaranteed under local, state and federal laws

Human Rights: such as respect for privacy and the considerate treatment necessary to preserve dignity.

Other Special Rights: for example, rights having to do with medical treatment and other areas of life in a long-term care facility.

WHY SHOULD I LEARN ABOUT RESIDENTS’ RIGHTS?

Because protecting these rights is everyone’s concern.

If you’re a Resident, learn what your rights are and how to make sure they’re respected.

Family and Friends should also understand residents’ rights.

If you’re a Staff Member, it’s part of your job to respect the rights of all residents. You can help ensure that your facility is a pleasant, comfortable and safe place to live!

RESIDENTS ENJOY THE SAME RIGHTS AS ALL PEOPLE

Residents have a right to:

Constitutional Protection: residents of a long-term facility have the right to

  • Vote

  • Own Property

  • Marry

  • Enjoy all the same constitutional protections as other citizens.

A Basic Quality Of Life: residents have the right to a high standard of care and a safe, secure, comfortable environment.

Freedom To Exercise Their Rights: the facility may not limit or take away any of a resident’s rights (except in certain temporary emergency situations).

These rights are not the facility’s to give – or take away. They belong to you!

RESIDENTS’ RIGHTS ARE PROTECTED BY LAW

The Federal Government protects all rights and sets standards through the Constitution and other special laws.

Each State licenses long-term care facilities, administrators and certain personnel to help ensure the best care. In addition, facilities must meet local building, health and fire codes.

Together, state, local and federal governments promote residents’ rights and quality care.

YOUR RIGHTS AS A RESIDENT

You may exercise these rights unless your health-care provider determines that doing so is not medically advisable.

Your facility should provide you with a written statement that explains your right to:

Be Informed: The facility must make sure you know and understand all your rights and responsibilities. Staff should review these rights with you and notify you in advance of any changes.

Exercise Your Rights: Staff should encourage and help you to exercise your rights. The facility must have a system for handling complaints. You must be allowed to use it freely – and receive a prompt response.

Be Told of Available Services: You must be told about all services available to you and their cost. You must also receive reasonable notice of any changes in these charges.

Make Treatment Decisions: As a legally competent adult, you have the right to accept – or refuse – treatment.

Prepare an Advance Medical Directive: This document allows you to state how you want medical decisions made, should you become physically or mentally unable to make them yourself.

Be Informed of Your Condition and Treatment: You have a right to:

  • Choose your own health-care provider

  • Review and purchase copies of your medical records

  • Know your medical condition

  • Participate in planning your treatment

  • Receive a written care plan

Be Transferred or Discharged Only for Certain Reasons: Acceptable reasons are:

  • Your medical condition

  • Your welfare (or the welfare of other residents)

  • Non-payment of your bill (except for Medicare and Medicaid patients).

You must receive reasonable notice of transfer or discharge. If you need help finding other care or appealing the move, the staff must provide it.

PERSONAL FREEDOM AND PRIVACY ARE GUARANTEED

The facility protects your rights to:

Keep Personal Clothing and Possessions.

  • You may wear your own clothing and keep personal possession (within reasonable limits).

  • The facility should provide you with private, secure storage space.

  • Have Time Alone with Your Spouse.

  • You are allowed private visits with your spouse.

  • If you’re married to another resident, you can share a room.

Confidentiality of Your Records.

  • Your medical records are available only to you and to staff who are caring for you.

  • And, only those who have a legal concern in your personal affairs may have access to your financial and other personal records.

  • Handle Your Own Finances.

  • You have control over your money.

  • If you give money to the facility for safekeeping, they must follow strict rules for its accounting and investment.

  • You may have access to your money during specified, reasonable hours.

Meet and Communicate with Anyone You Wish.

  • You can see – or refuse to see – any visitor. Your family may visit at any time.

  • You may take part in any activity, worship service, etc., in or out of the facility.

  • There should be private telephone and meeting areas for you to use.

  • You must receive your mail unopened.

ALL RESIDENTS DESERVE RESPECT FOR THEIR PROPERTY

This means that you have the right to be:

Free From Abuse and Unnecessary Restraint.

  • “Abuse” means any kind of physical, verbal or mental mistreatment (such as threats or harassment).

  • “Restraint” includes physical measures or drugs used to keep a person under control.

  • Restraint may be used only to protect the health and safety of residents and then only when strict guidelines are met.

Treated as an Individual.

  • You should be allowed to make your own choices about daily living whenever possible.

  • Staff must protect your privacy at all times, especially during medical exams and while you are bathing.

Free From Having to Perform Chores.

  • Staff should not expect you to work for the facility. If you choose to work, you have the right to receive payment.

  • In some cases, certain kinds of work may be prescribed as part of treatment or therapy. (But remember, it’s your right to help plan this treatment.)

MANY STATE HAVE THEIR OWN RESIDENTS’ “BILL OF RIGHTS”

That may guarantee additional rights. For example, a state may give residents the right to:

  • Choose their own suppliers of drugs and equipment

  • Keep their own hours.

  • Have their bed held for a certain time if they must temporarily go to a hospital or other facility.

MEDICARE AND MEDICAID PROGRAMS

Help ensure quality care and residents’ rights. Facilities certified for Medicare and Medicaid meet tough federal standards for:

The Facility: The building and its maintenance must meet standards aimed at protecting the health, safety and comfort of residents.

Quality of Care: The government sets standards for all areas of care.

Medicare and Medicaid Patients Have Special Rights. These protect against discrimination and other unfair treatment based on a resident’s participation in Medicare and Medicaid.

For more information about these programs, contact:

  • The nearest Social Security office (for Medicare)

  • Your state or local social services office (for Medicaid).

SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

What Are My Responsibilities as a Resident?

It’s up to you to:

  • Respect other residents’ rights.

  • Follow facility rules.

  • Give the facility accurate personal and medical information.

What if I Need Emergency Medical Treatment?

Emergencies call for fast action. The facility may have to treat you without your consent, or move you to another facility without notice.

How Do I Create an Advance Medical Directive?

You’ll need to prepare one of the following:

  • A health-care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care document, which names the person you want to make health-care decisions for you.

  • A living will, which contains your instructions for future health care.

Ask your facility for more details.

RESIDENT COUNSELS

Promote residents’ rights – and more! They can be an effective way to:

Communicate and Resolve Grievances:

Counsels can be a formal or informal way to solve problems in the facility.

Promote Involvement:

An active counsel can plan events and activities, and can get residents involved.

Influence Public Policy:

Resident councils can be a strong voice in the community. Writing letters to legislators, testifying at public hearings and other activities help protect the interests of residents everywhere.

OTHER SOURCES OF HELP

If you have questions about your rights, contact:

  • Your facility’s grievance committee
  • State or local long-term care ombudsman programs
  • Community legal services, legal aid or private attorneys
  • Social Workers

REMEMBER:

The facility must help you get information about your rights. A list of sources of help should be posted in the facility and made available to you.

RESIDENTS’ RIGHTS MEAN QUALITY CARE – AND QUALITY LIVING!

  • Know Your Rights.
  • Insist on respect for yourself and for your rights.
  • Take Action if you think your rights aren’t being respected.

IT’S YOUR RIGHT – AND IT’S THE LAW!

 

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