The stress of moving into a nursing home is great — and it’s compounded by the loss of freedom, dignity and privacy.
The Right Choice
Living in a nursing home will probably never be the same as living in a personal home. But the burden can be eased by choosing a facility that treats residents with respect and follows the law. For more information about what to look for in a facility, click here to read our previous article, “The Business of Care Giving.”
Adding to the anxiety is the fact that people moving to an elder care facility often have no choice. They may no longer be able to care for themselves without risking injury.
Family members should become advocates, observing their loved one’s care and living conditions, and then discussing any concerns with the staff. Additionally, they should be aware that federal laws and various state laws provide nursing home residents with specific rights.
For example, under the Nursing Home Reform Act, a number of protections are present, including:
Privacy and Confidentiality
- Residents can keep and use personal belongings and property as long as the items don’t interfere with the rights, health, or safety of others.
- Married couples can share a room if both spouses reside in the same facility.
- Confidential medical and personal records must be made available. Residents have the right to review their medical records within 24 hours of making a request, and staff members must ask permission to release personal records to others.
- Residents are allowed privacy in their rooms and during medical treatments. Privacy should also be available during telephone calls, visits and meetings with other residents. Mail should be received unopened. Residents have the right to see family members, a resident advocate, a physician, service providers, or representatives of the state or federal government.
- Residents can plan their own daily activities, wear their own clothes, and participate in social, religious, and community activities that do not interfere with the rights of other residents.
- Medications and treatments can be refused. Residents have the right to see their own doctors and must be informed about their conditions and medications.
- Equal access to quality care must be provided, regardless of whether residents pay privately or receive Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
- Residents can ask a nursing home to handle personal funds, but the facility must follow state and federal recordkeeping requirements. However, residents also have the right to manage their own finances unless a guardian or conservator has been appointed.
- Notice must be received before a resident’s room or roommate is changed.
- Residents can refuse transfer to another room if the purpose is to move from a Medicare bed to a Medicaid bed, or vice versa. When it comes to a discharge or move for other reasons, such action must be necessary for the person’s welfare; required to protect other residents; or appropriate because care is no longer needed. A move or discharge can also be made because a resident failed to pay bills or the facility is closing.
- Residents must be protected from physical and mental abuse, neglect, mistreatment, or misappropriation of their property. They must be allowed to stay with other residents and remain free from physical or chemical restraints except in emergencies.
- Complaints about care or treatment must be allowed without punishment.
- Residents must be informed about their rights. The facility must provide a written statement of rights if asked.
Important: The facility must investigate all claims of violations and report the results of the investigation to authorities if warranted. There must be a quick resolution of grievances.