What are Residents’ Rights?

Promoting Awareness through Residents’ Rights Awareness Month in October 

Seniors living in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are entitled to the same rights as everyone else–those of dignity, choice and self-determination. The Federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law was enacted to ensure that facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid are promoting and protecting the rights of each of their residents. Each October, The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care promotes Residents’ Rights awareness.

What are Residents’ Rights?

Taking into consideration residents’ physical, mental and psychosocial well being, the reform law outlines rules governing each facility. Whether you are a resident, you work in an assisted living environment or you have a relative or friend in an assisted living facility, you should know the rights afforded to the elderly in an assisted living, long-term care, or other care facilities. They include:

The right to be fully informed, in your native language, of available services and charges for each service, the rules and regulations of the facility, advance plans of room changes or roommates, how to reach your State Ombudsman and state survey agency as well as the state survey reports and plans of correction for the community in which you live.

The right to complain, without fear of reprisal, if you have a grievance. You should see prompt efforts by the facility to resolve the problems, or be able to further your complaint to the ombudsman program or the state survey and certification agency.

The right to participate in your own care. Participation includes knowing how to access your medical record, what’s going on with your medical condition and what assessments, care-planning, treatments and possible discharge plans are. You’re also allowed to refuse medication, treatment, chemical or physical restraints.

The right to privacy and confidentiality, during treatment and care, regarding medical, personal and financial affairs, and to be allowed unrestricted, private communication with whomever you choose.

Rights during transfers and discharges to receive a 30-day notice of transfer and discharge, including the reason and new location. You have a right to appeal these actions if you don’t agree you should be transferred or discharged.

The right to dignity, respect and freedom. No resident should experience mental or physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion or physical or chemical restraints. Your dignity and self-determination belong to you, and laws against elderly abuse, like the 1987 Reform Law protect your most basic rights to safety.

The right to visits, whether from your physician, relatives, friends, organizations that provide social, legal or health services, or the state survey agency and ombudsman program. You may also refuse visitors.

The right to make independent choices. From what you wear to what doctor your choose to managing your financial affairs, just because you are in an assisted living facility does not mean your choices are stripped. The facility must accommodate reasonable needs and preferences.

How can you advocate for Residents’ Rights?

Elder abuse should never happen; a person’s health or well being should never decline as a result of a facility’s care. There are a number of agencies which monitor the rights of residents, including the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, or, depending on the state, a citizen advocacy group.

What is the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care?

Originally the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR), the organization formed in 1975 as a result of public concern about less-than-acceptable care residents of nursing homes were receiving. Most of the original members of the NCCNHR had either witnessed or endured personal experiences with substandard conditions and took action. Today, the Consumer Voice is the leading national voice representing consumers of long-term care, providing tools and resources for residents, caregivers and advocates as well as advocacy related to federal and state regulatory and legislative policymaking. More than 200 member groups exist across the country, with an individual membership of over 2,000.

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