The following information is taken from The Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home, prepared by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
At a minimum, Federal law specifies that a nursing home resident's rights include:
Freedom from Discrimination: Nursing homes do not have to accept all applicants, but they must comply with Civil Rights laws that do not 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.
Respect: You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. As long as it fits your care plan, 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.
Freedom from Abuse and Neglect: You have the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, and involuntary seclusion by anyone. This includes, but is not 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).
Freedom from Restraints: Physical restraints are any manual method or physical or mechanical device, material, or equipment attached to or near your body so that you can't remove the restraint easily. They prevent freedom of movement or normal access to one's own body. A chemical restraint is a drug used to limit freedom of movement and is not needed to treat your medical symptoms. It is against the law for a nursing home to use physical or chemical restraints, unless it is necessary to treat your medical symptoms. Restraints may not be used to punish nor for the convenience of the nursing home staff. You have the right to refuse restraint use except if you are at risk of harming yourself or others.
Information on Services and Fees: You must be informed in writing about services and fees before you move into the nursing home. The nursing home cannot require a minimum entrance fee as a condition of resistance. You must also be informed of any policy changes the nursing home makes in writing.
Money: 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 manage your personal funds, you must sign a written statement that allows the nursing home to do this for you. However, the nursing home must allow you access to your bank accounts, cash, and other financial records. The nursing home must protect your funds from any loss by buying a bond or providing other similar protections. Some nursing homes may provide you with greater rights and protections of your health information. Ask the nursing home.
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. Nursing home staff should never open your mail unless you allow it. You have the right to use a telephone and talk privately. 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).
Medical Care: You have the right to be informed about your medical condition, medications, and to see your own doctor. You also have the right to refuse medications and treatments (but this could be harmful to your health). You have the right to take part in developing your care plan. You have the right to look at your medical records and reports when you ask.
Visitors: You have the right to spend private time with visitors at any reasonable hour. 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 or legal 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.
Social Services: 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.
Leaving the Nursing Home: 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 that 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. 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.
Complaints: 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.
Protection Against Unfair Transfer or Discharge: You cannot be sent to another nursing home, or made to leave the nursing home unless:
- It is necessary for the welfare, health, or safety of you or others,
- Your health has declined to the point that the nursing home cannot meet your care needs,
- Your health has improved to the point that nursing home care is no longer necessary,
- The nursing home has not been paid for services you received, or
- The nursing home closes.
Except in emergencies, nursing homes must give a 30-day written notice of their plan to discharge or transfer you. You have the right to appeal a transfer to another facility. A nursing home cannot 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.
Your Family and Friends: 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 has the right to 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.