June 17, 2011

Many nursing home residents feel a loss of control and a loss of dignity when they become residents of nursing homes. No longer can they come and go as they please, eat what they want and when they want, go to sleep in their own bed, or control who enters their room and when. But people do have rights when they become nursing home residents.

Federal law and state law provide certain minimum rights to nursing home residents to make sure they receive the medical care and services that they need. Nursing home residents have the right to be informed, the right to make their own decisions, and the right to have their personal information kept private, and nursing homes are required to advise each resident of these rights, to explain them in writing, and to explain the resident’s responsibilities while in the nursing home, which must be explained at the time of admission and during the nursing home stay.

Federal law provides that nursing homes must provide each resident with each of the following rights:

To be treated with dignity and respect; 

To be able to participate in activities they choose and to make their own schedules (when they go to bed, when they rise in the morning, and when they eat their meals);  

To be free from discrimination

To be able to make complaints (nursing homes must investigate and report incidents of all suspected violations and all injuries of unknown origin to the proper authorities within five working days); 

To be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse and neglect (nursing homes cannot separate residents from other residents against their will);

To be free from physical restraints such as side rails and chemical restraints (drugs) for the convenience of the nursing home staff;

To get the proper medical care (including being fully informed about medical conditions, medications, vitamins/supplements; the choice of doctors; participation in medical care decisions and care planning; prompt access to all records and reports; to be able to execute advance directives and living wills in accordance with state law; and, to refuse experimental treatment);

To have the resident’s doctor and legal representative or family members notified of the following: accidents, injuries, the need for medical treatment, change in physical, mental, or psychosocial status, a life threatening condition, medical complications, significant treatment changes, or discharge from the nursing home or transfer to another nursing home; to receive information in writing regarding services and fees before admission into the nursing home and any time they change (there can be no minimum entrance fee charged if care is paid for by Medicare or Medicaid); 

To manage their own money or to choose someone on their behalf to manage their money (the nursing home must provide a final accounting and return a resident’s funds to the proper person within 30 days after a resident dies);

To have proper privacy, property, and living arrangements including the following: to have and use personal property as long as they do not interfere with the rights, health, and safety of other residents; to have private visits with visitors; to make and receive private telephone calls; to have privacy in receiving and sending mail; to have the nursing home protect personal property from theft; to share a room with a spouse if both agree; to be notified before a change in roommates and to have preferences taken into account; and, to review the nursing home’s health and safety inspection results;

To receive social services such as counseling, help resolving problems with other residents, help in contacting legal and financial representatives, and help with discharge planning;

To leave the nursing home for visits as appropriate;

To move out of the nursing home;

To be protected from unfair transfer or discharge unless it is necessary for the welfare, health, or safety of the resident or other residents, nursing home care is no longer medically necessary, the nursing home has not been paid for services, or the nursing home closes (residents have a right to appeal a transfer or discharge; nursing homes cannot force a resident to leave if the resident is waiting for Medicaid benefits; nursing homes must provide 30 days written notice of the plan and reasons for transfer or discharge, except under emergency circumstances; and, the nursing home must safely and orderly complete the transfer or discharge and give proper notice of bed-hold and readmission requirements);

Residents have the right to form and participate in resident groups to discuss issues involving the nursing home’s policies and operations; and,

Residents have the right to have family and friends to make sure they receive good quality care.


If your rights have been seriously violated by a nursing home or if you or loved one suffered serious injuries or death as a result of negligent nursing home care, visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your area who may be able to assist you with your claim or call us toll free at 800-295-3959.