A Bill of Rights protects each nursing home resident. In fact, nursing home residents have more rights than the average citizen as a consequence of state and federal laws specifically designed to protect and assist them. But these rights mean nothing if the resident, their legal representative, or their family and friends do not know of or understand them.
In addition to the rights afforded by particular state laws, every nursing home resident in America is guaranteed the following resident rights:
Complete Patient Bill of Rights
1. Basic rights
- Each resident has the right to a dignified existence, self-determination, and communication with and access to persons and services inside and outside the facility.
- The resident has the right to exercise his or her rights as a resident of the facility and as a citizen or resident of the United States (this includes voting rights).
- The resident has the right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination, and reprisal from the facility in exercising his or her rights.
2. Resident’s dignity
- The resident has the right to be cared for in a manner and in an environment that maintains or enhances the resident’s dignity and respect in full recognition of his or her individuality.
3. Free choice
- The resident has the right to choose a personal attending physician.
- The resident has the right to be fully informed in advance about care and treatment and about any changes in that care or treatment that may affect the resident’s well being.
- The resident has the right to participate in planning care and treatment, or changes in care and treatment.
4. Privacy and confidentiality
- The resident has the right to personal privacy and to the confidentiality of personal and clinical records.
- Personal privacy includes accommodations, medical treatment, written and telephone communications, personal care, visits, and meetings of family and resident groups, but this does not require the facility to provide a private room for each resident.
- The resident has the right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.
- The resident has the right to prompt efforts by the facility to resolve grievances, including those with respect to the behavior of other residents.
6. Examination of survey results
- The resident has the right to examine the results of the most recent survey of the facility conducted by federal or state surveyors and any plan of correction in effect with respect to the facility.
- The resident has the right to receive information from state agencies acting as client advocates and to be afforded the opportunity to contact these agencies.
- The resident has the right to refuse to perform services for the facility.
- The resident may perform services for the facility if he or she chooses.
- The resident has the right to privacy in written communications, including the right to send and promptly receive mail that is unopened and to have access to stationery, postage, and writing implements at the resident’s own expense.
- The resident has the right to have reasonable access to the use of a telephone in a place where calls can be made without being overheard.
10. Personal Property
- The resident has the right to retain and use personal possessions, including some furnishings, and appropriate clothing as space permits, unless to do so would infringe upon the rights or health and safety of other residents.
11. Married Couples
- The resident has the right to share a room with his or her spouse when married residents live in the same facility and both spouses consent to the arrangement.
- The resident has the right to be free from any physical or chemical restraints imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience, and not required to treat the resident’s medical symptoms.
- The resident has the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, corporal punishment, and involuntary seclusion.
14. Self-determination and participation
- The resident has the right to choose activities, schedules, and health care consistent with his or her interests, assessments, and care plan.
- The resident has the right to interact with members of the community both inside and outside the facility.
- The resident has the right to make choices about significant aspects of his or her life in the facility.
15. Participation in resident and family groups
- The resident has the right to organize and participate in resident groups in the facility.
- The resident’s family has the right to meet in the facility with the families of other residents who live there.
- When a resident or family group exists, the facility must listen to the views and act upon the grievances and recommendations of residents and families concerning proposed policy and operational decisions affecting resident care and life in the facility.
16. Participation in other activities
- The resident has the right to participate in social, religious, and community activities that do not interfere with the rights of other residents in the facility
17. Protection of resident funds
- The resident has the right to manage his or her financial affairs, and the facility may not require residents to deposit their personal funds with the facility.
18. Notice of rights and services
- The facility must inform the resident both orally and in writing in a language that the resident understands of his or her rights and all rules and regulations governing resident conduct and responsibilities during the stay in the facilities.
- The resident has the right to be fully informed in language that he or she can understand of his or her total health status, including but not limited to his or her medical condition.
- The resident or his or her legal representative has the right to gain access to all pertinent records, including current clinical records, within twenty-four hours (excluding weekends and holidays).
20. Refuse treatment
- The resident has the right to refuse treatment, to refuse to participate in experimental research, and to formulate an advance directive.
21. Room or roommate change (room transfer)
- A resident has the right to receive notice before his or her room or roommate in the facility is changed.
22. Notification of legal rights
- A facility must furnish each resident with:
- A written description of the resident’s legal rights, including the manner of protecting personal funds, and the requirements and procedures for establishing eligibility for Medicaid
- A posting of names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all pertinent state advocacy groups such as the state ombudsman, the state protection and advocacy agencies, and the Medicaid fraud control number.
- A statement that the resident may file a complaint with the state survey and certification agency concerning resident abuse, neglect, and misappropriation of resident property in the facility.
- A facility must inform each resident of the physician’s name, specialty, and a way of contacting the physician responsible for his or her care.
24. Rights properly exercised
- In the case of a resident adjudged incompetent under the laws of the state by a court of competent jurisdiction, the rights of the resident are exercised by the person appointed under state law to act on the resident’s behalf.
- In case of a resident who has not been adjudged incompetent by the state court, any legal surrogate designated in accordance with state law may exercise the resident’s rights to the extent provided by state law.
25. Notification requirements
- A facility must immediately inform the resident, consult with the resident’s physician, and, if known, notify the resident’s legal representative or an interested family member:
- When there is an accident involving the resident that results in injury and has the potential for requiring physician intervention.
- When there is a significant change in the resident’s physical, mental, or psychosocial status.
- When there is a need to alter treatment significantly.
- When there is a decision to transfer or discharge the resident form the facility (in certain situations)
26. Visitation rights
The resident has the right and the facility must provide immediate access to any resident:
- By a representative of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human services ( a federal entity).
- By any representative of the state
- By the state long-term care ombudsman
- By the state agency responsible for the protection and advocacy system for developmentally disabled individuals and for mentally ill individuals.
- Subject to the resident’s right to deny or withdraw consent at any time, by immediate family or other relatives of the resident, or other visitors.
It is a resident’s right and a nursing home’s responsibility to enforce these resident rights. Here are some tips to help you enforce resident rights:
- You cannot enforce rights of which you are unaware. Read and understand the twenty-six basic resident rights.
- Be a watchdog for resident rights. Speak with your loved one about his or her life in the facility. While speaking with him or her, listen for potential resident rights concerns. When visiting, watch what staff members do and how they do it, keeping the charge nurse and administrators aware of any seemingly improper conduct. You must be an alert watchdog.
- Work as a team to enforce resident rights. Your understanding of resident rights can help make caregivers the best they can be. With a positive approach, you can demonstrate by your words and actions that you will work with the nursing home staff as a team to enforce resident rights.
- Complain when you perceive a violation of resident rights. If you have good reason to believe that any of your or your loved one’s rights are being violated, speak with the administrator of the nursing home to resolve the situation immediately. If your concern is not adequately addressed, contact your state ombudsman.