A nursing home, which may also be referred to as a retirement home or an assisted living community, is a residence that is designed to meet the needs of its elderly residents. Often, there are nurses and doctors on staff who assist in caring for the residents of the nursing home.

Nursing homes are types of long term care facilities where elderly individuals may live and receive the medical supervision that they require. Typically, a nursing home will provide care to individuals who have chronic illness and are not able to care for themselves but who do not need intensive care or supervision.

For example, an individual who is confined to a wheelchair or a bed and cannot do daily activities, such as going to the bathroom, feeding themselves, or taking their medication may benefit from a nursing home.

What is Regulation of Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes are subject to both the laws of the state as well as federal laws. The Nursing Home Reform Act was passed by the federal government in 1987.

This Act was designed to ensure that residents of nursing homes are getting quality care. The Act outlines which services nursing homes are required to provide as well as the standard for these services, which include:

  • Nursing services;
  • Pharmaceutical services;
  • Rehabilitation services;
  • Regular assessments of residents’ health; and
  • Complete care plans for each resident.

What are Some Rights of Nursing Home Residents?

Residents of nursing homes are usually elderly individuals, although there are some younger patients who have specific rehabilitation needs. Generally, nursing home residents have a number of rights which related to their:

  • Living arrangements;
  • Medical care; and
  • Personal needs.

Nursing home residents have numerous rights, including:

  • Medicaid and Medicare rights;
    • A resident cannot be asked to leave because of such benefits;
  • Right to privacy, for example:
    • in their residential rooms;
    • belongings;
    • clothes;
    • documents;
    • other issues;
  • A right to know about their health care coverage as well as to participate in its planning;
  • The right to be free of discrimination, especially when applying for residency;
  • The right to refuse medical treatment;
  • Right to be free from mental and physical abuse and neglect;
  • Rights to the confidentiality of their medical records;
  • Rights advanced notice if they will be transferred or removed to another care facility; and
  • Visiting relatives is allowed, so long as it does not interfere with treatment.

One of the main concerns related to nursing home rights is whether the individual’s medical treatment will be compromised if they assert their rights. In some cases, an individual’s medical needs may take precedence over certain rights.

The majority of nursing home lawsuits are based on the legal theory of negligence.

What is the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights?

In relation to the rights discussed above, the Nursing Home Reform Act established the Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights, which includes:

  • The right to be free from abuse;
  • The right to privacy;
  • The right to make complaints against the home without facing discrimination; and
  • The right to be treated with dignity.

What are the Signs of Nursing Home Abuse?

There are several tell-tale signs of nursing home abuse, or elder abuse, which include:

  • Bruises, bedsores, or other injuries;
  • Excessive weight loss;
  • Dehydration; and
  • Unclean conditions.

If an individual fears that they or their loved one is a victim of nursing home abuse or that the nursing home has violated the Nursing Home Reform Act, they should contact the nursing home administrator and make a complaint. The individual should also contact their state agency regarding the violation.

It may also be helpful to obtain the assistance of an attorney to sue the nursing home for damages.

What are Some Nursing Home Accident Statistics?

Although a nursing home is intended to keep its residence safe from harm, this does not always prevent every injury from occurring. Some statistics related to accidents that occur in nursing homes include:

  • 20% of all deaths in the 65 years and older age group resulting from slip and fall accidents occur in nursing homes, which is approximately 1800 people per year;
  • Nursing homes with 100 or more beds report, on average, between 100 and 200 resident fall annually;
  • At least half of all residents of nursing homes fall each year;
  • Approximately 15% of all falls in nursing homes result in serious injuries;
  • Environmental hazards, for example, uneven walkways or slippery floors, cause at least 16% of all nursing home falls every year;
  • According to one study in 2000, 95% of nursing home residents have experienced neglect or have seen another resident be neglected;
    91.7% of nursing homes in 2005 had at least one deficiency according to health inspectors; and
  • 1 of 4 nursing homes were responsible for the serious injury or death of a resident in 2001.

What if These Rights have been Violated?

If the legal rights of a resident are violated, that resident may be able to sue the nursing home facility in a civil court of law. Monetary damages awards may be issued to compensate these individuals for their economic losses, which may include:

  • Medical expenses;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • Other hardships.

There may be an administrative agency that may investigate the overall care standards of the facility in more serious cases. A nursing home resident may sue an individual or entity that is responsible for their injuries.

The parties or individuals who may be sued depend on the facts of the case. Examples of possible parties include:

  • Owners or operators of the nursing home;
  • Employees of the company;
  • Professionals, such as doctors, who provide medical care at the facility; and
  • Solicitors engaging in fraud or scams often invade the privacy of their clients.

In a nursing home facility or care home lawsuit, the plaintiff may need the assistance of a representative to assist them with filing documents and other required tasks. This may be due to the advanced age of the resident or the fact that they may not be mentally capable of making legal decisions for themselves.

It may also be necessary to have the assistance of an attorney in these types of cases or to use a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document which gives an individual the right to make certain decisions on behalf of another individual.

Can Residents Leave a Nursing Home to Live Elsewhere?

Yes, a nursing home resident has the right to move to another location. The majority of nursing homes, however, require that they are notified in advance.

The patient and their family will be responsible for:

  • Doctors’ advice;
  • Health insurance; and
  • Health care.

If a Resident is Sent to the Hospital, Does the Resident have the Right to be Readmitted to the Nursing Home?

A nursing home typically has a written policy regarding admittance following a temporary leave. However, a nursing home is, in general, required to allow the resident to return, even if that resident has unpaid bills or if the nursing home feels that it cannot meet the needs of the resident.

The nursing home may, however, begin the transfer process after the patient returns. The family and the hospital should immediately appeal to the state if a nursing home refuses to readmit the patient or the nursing home risks having an improper transfer.

Should I Retain a Lawyer?

If you or your loved one has been injured as a result of an accident in a nursing home, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to help you navigate the complex legal system as well as to speak on your behalf while dealing with other parties and the courts.