Laws Protecting Nursing Home Residents

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities that receive federal funds must comply with certain federal regulations and laws. These regulations and laws set out in detail the type and quality of care that residents in these facilities must receive.

The law requires nursing homes to promote and protect the rights of each resident and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination.

Nursing Home Reform Act (1987)

During the 1980s, reports of nursing home abuse and neglect surfaced in alarming numbers. In an effort to reform nursing home practices and procedures and to set standards for the care rendered to residents Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987. These laws were incorporated into the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA 1987).

If you are a resident or have a loved one in a nursing home, it is important to be familiar with the rights provided by the Nursing Home Reform Act. The law requires nursing homes to promote and protect the rights of each resident and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination. In order to participate in Medicare or Medicaid, nursing homes must meet residents' rights requirements.

Nursing Home Residents' Rights

Residents have the right to be fully informed,
of services and their charges; the rules and regulations of the nursing home; contact information for the State Ombudsman, State licensure office, and other advocacy groups; and state survey reports of the nursing home along with the home's plans for corrections. Residents have the right to be communicated to daily in their language and provided assistance for sensory impairments.
Residents have the right to participate in their own care,
which includes both receiving adequate and appropriate care and also the right to refuse that care. They have the right to be involved in the planning of their care, should be informed of any changes in treatment or condition, and the right to review their medical records.
Residents have the right to make independent choices
This includes making independent decisions on clothing and spending free time, choosing their own activities inside and outside the nursing home, participating in a resident council, and selecting their own physician. The nursing home must make reasonable accommodations of a resident's needs and preferences.
Residents have the right to privacy and confidentiality,
including private and unrestricted communication with persons of their choice, private treatment and care of personal needs, and confidentiality regarding medical, personal, and financial affairs.
Residents have the right to dignity, respect, and freedom
Residents have the right to be treated with consideration, respect and dignity, to be free from abuse, both mental and physical, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints. Residents have the right to self-determination.
Residents have the right to security of possessions
This includes managing their own financial affairs and not being charged for services covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Residents have the right to file a complaint if the nursing home is managing their financial affairs in an abusive, neglectful, or inappropriate way.
Residents have rights during transfers and discharges,
including the right to a 30-day notice and a safe transfer or discharge with sufficient preparation by the nursing home. Residents also have a right to remain in the nursing facility unless the transfer or discharge is deemed necessary to meet the resident's welfare, required to protect other residents and staff, or a facility charge has not been provided after reasonable notice.
Residents have the right to complain
without fear of reprisal and the right to prompt efforts by the nursing home to resolve grievances.
A resident has the right to visits
A resident has the right to visits from their personal physician, representatives from the health department and ombudsman programs, and their relatives. Residents also have the right to reasonable visits by organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services.