The Rights of Nursing Home Residents

nursinghomeplanningThe decision to move an aging parent or loved one into a nursing home can be difficult. It is often the result of failing health, disease, injury, or hospital discharge where the individual can no longer safely remain at home. Adding to the anxiety is the fact that people moving to an elder care facility often have no choice. Knowing the rules that apply to nursing home admissions, NY Medicaid and rights of residents are vital to successfully navigating the process, and protecting your family.

Over 3.2 million adults living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in the U.S. and that number is expected to grow as the population ages. Living in a nursing home will probably never be quite the same as living independently in one’s own home. Any move can be stressful for a senior and can be compounded by the sense of loss of freedom, dignity, and privacy. There are many wonderful facilities that offer caring and compassionate staff, socialization and activities, memory care units, excellent food, and round-the-clock monitoring. However, a report shows up to 1 in 6 nursing home residents may be the victim of abuse or neglect every year.

skillednursingFamily members should become advocates and observe their loved one’s care and living conditions. It may be difficult to differentiate between what may be characterized as general ‘complaining’ by the resident and violations that can cause actual harm. All concerns should be discussed with the staff. And be aware that federal laws and various state laws provide nursing home residents with specific rights. Under the Nursing Home Reform Act, a number of protections are present.

Privacy and Confidentiality:

Residents can keep and use personal belongings and property as long as the items do not 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 ny-medicaid-nursinghomeshould also be available during telephone calls, visits with other residents or family members. Mail should be received unopened unless the resident requests assistance. Residents have the right to see family members, a resident advocate, a physician, service providers, an attorney 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.

Medical Care:

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, have long-term care insurance, or receive Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

Facilities must have adequate staff to care for the number of residents. Some signs of improper medical care can include bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, rapid deterioration of health, repeated fall injuries, infections, and poor hygiene. A congressional report showed that an examination of nursing home records conducted over a two-year period showed that nearly 1 in 3 nursing homes were cited for violations.


Residents can ask a nursing home to handle personal funds, but the facility must follow state and federal record keeping requirements. However, residents also have the right to manage their own finances unless a guardian or conservator has been appointed.

nursinghomeguardianshipMany people are not aware that a nursing home has the power to file for guardianship over its residents. In some cases it involves no family members available to serve as guardian, family feuds or suspected fraud, or absence of help to obtain Medicaid coverage. However, recent reports show some nursing homes petitioning for guardianship solely to gain access to a resident’s assets to collect on unpaid bills or to force the settlement of billing disputes. Even if the nursing home’s petition is ultimately unsuccessful, filing for guardianship may force families of nursing home patients into costly court battles. If this happens to you or a loved one, please contact the Herzog Law Firm as soon as possible.


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.


Abuse can take many forms and can be perpetrated by staff, caretakers, or other residents. Residents must be protected from physical, mental, sexual, or financial abuse, neglect, mistreatment and 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. 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.

Protecting Your Rights

nursinghomemedicaidNursing home abuse is a serious concern. Elder abuse and neglect, particularly when it involves a patient in a residential care facility, can be difficult to detect and many cases go unreported. You can gather valuable information about reputable elder housing options from your Elder Law attorney, state or local offices on aging, geriatric care managers, physicians, hospital discharge planners, social workers, and reviews from those who live in senior housing facilities. You can also review state inspection reports and investigate whether there are any malpractice or other lawsuits pending against the facilities.

Keep in mind that most people going into skilled nursing facilities get better care than they were before and may even be happier as a result of making new friends and social activities. Contact the Herzog Law Firm for help in the long-term care planning process and to protect your loved one’s rights. We also have a team of experienced attorneys that can advocate for residents if there is suspected abuse, neglect or fraud and bring litigation when there is medical malpractice or wrongful death.

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