The “Bill of Rights” for Nursing Home Residents

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The Nursing Home Reform Act was passed in 1987 as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It establishes a “bill of rights” for residents and requires that every skilled nursing facility provide certain services to their residents. Nursing homes that are not in compliance cannot receive Medicaid and Medicare payments, which make up a large part of most nursing homes’ income, so this is something that they have to take seriously. A nursing home lawyer can help you understand if your (or your loved one’s) rights are being violated.

Nursing home residents have an absolute right (as set out in 42 U.S. Code § 1395i-3 as well as many states’ laws) to:

Be treated with dignity and respect. This includes deciding how your own day looks, such as getting up, eating meals, and going to bed on your own time.

Take part in activities. You have the right to participate (or not, as you choose) in recreational and educational activities designed to meet your needs.

Not suffer discrimination. While nursing homes can decide which applicants to accept based on health or other criteria, they cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, disability, or religion.

Not suffer abuse or neglect. This includes physical, emotional, verbal, and sexual abuse. It also includes isolation, which means that the nursing home cannot force you to be isolated from family and friends (a quarantine for health reasons is not generally considered forced isolation).

Not be restrained unnecessarily. The staff cannot use physical or medical restraints as discipline or for their own convenience.

Communicate complaints. You have the right to complain to the nursing home without reprisal, and the nursing home must address the complaint in a timely manner.

Receive and participate in medical care. This includes being informed about your health status and any prescriptions or treatment plans, making decisions about your own care, having reasonable access to your medical records, and making advance directives such as a living will or power of attorney.

Designate a representative. The nursing home must notify your own doctor and any designated representative if there are changes in health status.

Be notified of services and fees. You should receive written information on all services and fees, and how to use Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

Manage your own finances. You can manage your own money or designate someone of your own choosing to manage it for you. You should have access to your own accounts.

Enjoy reasonable privacy and property rights. This includes using your own personal belongings and having privacy for visits, phone calls, and emails.

Receiving needed social services. This includes counseling, mediation, discharge planning, and access to legal and financial professionals.

Leave the nursing home. You are allowed to leave the nursing home to visit family or friends, and you are allowed to discharge yourself from the nursing home.

Not be transferred or discharged involuntarily. The nursing home is not allowed to transfer or discharge you against your will unless nursing home care is no longer medically appropriate or you do not pay the nursing home. You may appeal a transfer or discharge that you disagree with.

Participate in a resident council or group. The nursing home must provide space for a group of residents to share concerns.

Involve family and friends in your care. The nursing home must let caretakers visit, participate in your care, and access your medical records if you have given proper permission.

If you are concerned that you or your loved one’s rights are being violated, an experienced and compassionate advocate at Brown Kiely LLP can help you learn more about nursing home residents’ rights and any next steps that you need to take.