If you or a loved one have recently begun living in a nursing or an assisted living home, then you know that they represent a major change in day-to-day life. In many ways, these facilities make it easier to enjoy daily life without some of the risks associated with living alone or in an inaccessible residential home. They can also open up new opportunities for engagement, with new neighbors to meet and new activities to participate in.
What Legal Rights Do Nursing Home Residents Have?
Of course, many folks who have chosen or who are considering an assisted living option have heard about its darker side. Unfortunately, some nursing facilities do not properly protect their residents rights when it comes to privacy, dignity, and self-determination. This can lead to an immediate quality of life degradation, which no nursing home resident deserves to live through.
As such, it is critical for nursing home residents and their caregivers to know and understand these individual’s legal rights. Entering a nursing home does not mean giving up autonomy, so it is important for a nursing home resident or their caregiver to advocate on their behalf when necessary. This guide will take you through many broad rights maintained by nursing home residents, as well as some nuances regarding how those rights are applied.
The Right to Self-Determination
According to the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, there are several key rights maintained by nursing home residents that must be properly protected. The first among these is the right to self-determination, which broadly refers to a residents ability to move about the facility on their own terms. In general terms, this means choosing which activities to participate in, including those of a cultural or religious nature. It also implies a freedom to engage with their own family members at their own discretion.
In a broader sense, though, this freedom dictates that a nursing home patient must be allowed to set their own schedule. Moreover, they must be given fully primary agency over their own medical care. This may include playing a direct role in the development of their short- and long-term care plans, as well as any accommodations made on their behalf. This right extends to both ends of the care spectrum as well, meaning that a nursing home resident has the right to refuse or discontinue treatment as they see fit.
Depending on the circumstances, this right to self-determination can be designated to another individual. This may be a spouse or another family member who has gone through the steps to certifiably act upon that resident’s rights. To do this, a prospective representative must often receive approval from the care facility in question. They may also need to gain the legal right to act on that resident’s behalf, such as through a power of attorney.
The Right to Dignity
Often, nursing homes are an ideal living situation for older individuals and those who need more day-to-day care than their family is able to provide. In this kind of situation, the individual in need of extra support can feel that their dignity has been degraded due to the circumstances. As such, it is critical for a nursing home resident’s right to dignity be upheld at all times. This includes the promotion of any action or activity that implies respect, consideration, and the resident’s individuality.
This right also implies a nursing home resident’s freedom to live in their new home without fear of or the threat of discrimination, abuse, or neglect. News of this kind of treatment is all too common, so it is all the more important to ensure that these dignity-based rights are being upheld at every turn. This right also extends to a freedom to be free of any kind of physical or chemical restraint.
Furthermore, a resident’s right to dignity covers their ability to live in the facility with a similar level of dignity they felt in their own home. At one level, this means receiving a proper level of privacy at all hours of the day. But at another level, this means being able to feel secure in their person and their possessions, even when they are not present. Personal belongings must also be allowed whenever possible to further support this right.
Right to Be Properly Informed
Along with a nursing home resident’s right to self-determination, an individual living in a nursing home has the right to properly informed on all matters relating to them. This may include monetary matters, including how much they pay to live in their residents and when they are required to pay that sum. It also covers the manner in which that individual is informed on any matter, which is to say, in their preferred language which they fluently understand.
However, in most cases, this right address being properly informed about medical matters. As such, a nursing home patient is entitled to know their present medical condition and any future changes to said condition. They must also be informed of any tests that must be performed upon them, as well as any pertinent results in a timely manner. In essence, a nursing home resident’s rights on this front pair exactly with those of anyone else.
Right to Air Grievances
While living in a nursing home facility, a resident has the right to air grievances against the property’s managers or owners. These grievances can relate to any matter regarding the condition of the facility or other residents living therein (within reason). To allow for proper execution of this overarching right, a resident has the right to be told a formal channel for reporting an issue or concern. Moreover, they have the right to make multiple reports if they believe that their concerns are not being heard.
Whenever possible, a nursing home must respect a resident’s rights on this front by taking whatever action is appropriate in a timely manner. If a requested action cannot be taken, a nursing home resident has a right to know why the action will not be taken. Also, no nursing home resident should ever feel that their grievances are subject to discrimination or retaliation. If this occurs, a nursing home resident has the right to report this and other concerns to the proper external authorities.
Right during Discharges
If a nursing home resident is set to be discharged for any reason, they have a right to know precisely why they are being forced to move out. Along the same lines, any discharge notification issued must include its effective date, which cannot be any sooner than 30 days after the request is posted. Also, a resident in this situation has the right to appeal their discharge as well as remain in their residence while the appeal is pending.
If a discharge is finalized, a resident has the right to receive proper assistance while moving out. This assistance must be appropriate to their physical capabilities and ensure that the former resident remains safe. Also, nursing home residents maintain the right to live in their nursing home even after an extended absence. Such an absence may occur for any number of reasons, including a hospitalization or an off-site therapy.
Acting upon a Rights Infringement
If you or a loved one discovers that one of their rights as a nursing home resident have been infringed, you or that loved one should act immediately to resolve the issue with the relevant party. However, if they dispute the matter, then you may be required to seek external support for your assertation of rights. Many areas have lawyers and other legal assistance who can be a major asset in these moments.
Whenever possible, the individual whose rights have been infringed should take the primary initiative of resolving the at-hand issue. However, if that individual is unable to do so on their own, they should be assisted by another individual who they have selected. This person can act as their representative and should be present though all steps of the resolution process. If necessary, this individual may even need to become a formal representative to that nursing home resident (but again, only with the resident’s certified permission).
Hiring a Lawyer to pursue a Nursing Home Claim
At the end of the day, a nursing home resident’s rights are a serious matter that should be protected with the utmost scrutiny. All too often, nursing home residents are taken advantage of because they do not know their rights under state and federal law. Often, they only learn about their rights after they have already been mistreated by a nursing home’s management or staff.
That’s why it is important to inform yourself or a loved one on the rights described above. However, if you or a loved one have already had your rights as a nursing home resident infringed upon, then you have every reason to seek out legal representation. If you live in the Philadelphia, PA, area, you simply must call the , the Law Offices of Joel J. Kofsky without delay. Their skilled personal injury lawyers can help you understand your rights while also supporting your efforts to seek proper legal compensation for past infringements.