Nursing home residents are typically elderly persons, although some patients are younger with specific rehabilitation needs. In general, nursing home residents have a number of rights relating to their living arrangements, medical care, and personal needs.
Nursing home residents have the following rights:
- Medicaid/Medicare rights; cannot be asked to leave because of such benefits
- Right to privacy (e.g., in their residential rooms, belongings, clothes, documents, etc.)
- A right to know their health care coverage and 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 physical and mental 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
- Visiting relatives is allowed, as long as it does not interfere with treatment
The main concern with nursing home rights is whether the person’s medical treatment will be compromised if they assert their rights. Sometimes, a person’s medical needs may take precedence over certain rights. Most nursing home lawsuits are based on negligence theories.
Nursing Home Resident’s Bill of Rights
The Nursing Home Reform Act established the Nursing Home Resident’s Bill of Rights, which states:
- Abuse should not be tolerated
- Privacy is a right
- Complaints about the home should not be discriminated against
- A right to dignity
Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse (elder abuse) has a few tell-tale signs, including:
- Injuries, bruises, or bedsores
- Excessive weight loss
- Contaminated conditions
If you suspect that you or your loved one are victims of nursing home abuse or that the nursing home has violated the Nursing Home Reform Act, contact the nursing home administrator and file a complaint. In addition, you should contact your state agency about the violation. You can also hire an attorney to sue the nursing home for damages.
What Is a “Bedhold Period?”
The bedhold period refers to the number of days a resident’s bed is open during the time they are being treated or rehabilitated. During recovery from surgery, the resident may have to leave the care home for an extended period of time. In this case, the nursing home should address the issue of what will happen to the resident’s bed or room while they are away.
In most cases, bedhold periods will be outlined in the contract between the nursing home and the resident. There is a risk that the patient will lose their spot in the nursing home if they are away from home for an extended period of time.
In contrast, the nursing home cannot lend the patient’s bed or room to another person during the bedhold period. In most cases, they must also provide notice if the bedhold period is about to be exceeded.
What if These Rights Have Been Violated?
If a resident’s legal rights are violated, they can sue the nursing home facility in a civil court of law. A monetary damages award can usually compensate them for their economic losses. This can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other hardships. An administrative agency may investigate the facility’s overall care standards in serious cases.
The nursing home resident may sue persons or entities that are liable (responsible) for their losses or injuries, depending on the facts of the case. Examples include:
- Owners/operators of the nursing home
- Employees of the company
- Professionals such as doctors who provide medical care at the facility
- Solicitors engaging in fraud or scams often invade the privacy of their clients.
In nursing facility or care home lawsuits, a plaintiff may need to hire a representative to assist them with filing documents and other tasks. This could be due to the resident’s advanced age or the fact that he may not be mentally capable of making legal decisions. It may be necessary to hire a lawyer in such cases or use a power of attorney.
Can Patients Be Moved from One Nursing Home to Another Even If They Are Not Being Disruptive?
Certain circumstances can force a resident to move abruptly and involuntarily. Loss of certification by the facility or a strike by the staff are examples of this. Additionally, a move can be made if it is necessary for the resident’s safety and health or for the safety and health of others. If this occurs, special arrangements are typically made to transfer the resident to another housing facility.
Can a Disruptive Patient Be Forced to Leave a Nursing Home Against Their Will?
A nursing home resident cannot be moved unless:
- They have medical needs that cannot be met by the facility
- Their health has improved significantly enough that it no longer requires care
- They endanger the health or safety of others at the facility
- They have failed to pay for services, or the nursing home has closed
Can a Disruptive Patient Be Transferred from One Nursing Home to Another?
A disruptive patient can be transferred to another nursing home if they are given:
- 30 days’ notice in writing
- Reasons for the transfer, and
- How to challenge the proposed move.
Each state has its own hearing procedures.
Can Residents Leave a Nursing Home to Live Elsewhere?
Yes, residents have the right to move to another location. Most nursing homes, however, require that they be notified in advance. Patients and their families are 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?
The nursing home usually has a written policy regarding admittance after a temporary leave, but nursing homes are generally required to allow a resident to return, even if the resident has unpaid bills or the nursing home feels it cannot meet the resident’s needs.
However, the nursing home can begin the transfer process after the patient returns. The family and the hospital should make an immediate appeal to the state if the nursing home refuses to readmit the patient, or they will risk having an improper transfer.
What Can I Do to Stop the Abuse?
An elderly person can stop the abuse by taking a variety of steps. The first step is to file a complaint with the local police. The police may launch a criminal investigation into nursing home abuse. Next, contact your local protective services agency. This agency is usually part of the State Department of Health. A lawsuit for compensatory and punitive damages may also be possible.
Can a Nursing Home be Held Liable for the Actions of Its Employees?
Employers are often liable for the actions of their employees while they are on the job. When a nursing home employee injures you or a loved one while on duty, the nursing home is probably liable.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Advice Regarding the Rights of Nursing Home Residents?
Residents of nursing homes have important rights. They can create a situation where a resident must file a lawsuit in order to recover their losses. These claims can be complex and require a lawyer with legal expertise. If you need assistance with filing a nursing home complaint, you should speak with a nursing home abuse lawyer immediately.
A lawyer can advise you on state laws and represent you or a loved one in court. A family law attorney who is experienced will also be familiar with the laws regarding patients in nursing homes and will be able to advise you properly.