The combination of an institutional setting and the disability that put the person in a Nursing home can result in a loss of dignity and the absence of proper care.

Fortunately, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987 that provides basic rights to nursing home residents.

Basically it requires that every nursing home resident be given whatever services are necessary to function at the highest level possible and to be treated properly.

In addition, the law gives residents a number of specific rights:

  • Residents have the right to be free of unnecessary physical or chemical restraints.
  • Facilities must inform residents of the name, specialty and means of contacting the primary physician.
  • Residents have the right to participate in care planning meetings.
  • When a resident experiences any change in health, or when a physician wishes to change the resident’s treatment, the facility must inform the resident, and the resident’s physician, legal representative or interested family member.
  • The resident has the right to gain access to all his or her records within one business day,
  • The facility must provide a written description of legal rights, explaining state laws regarding living wills, durable powers of attorney for health care and other advance directives.
  • Nursing homes must inform residents of the services available in the facility, and of related charges. Nursing homes can charge for services and items in addition to the basic daily rate, but only if they already have disclosed which services and items will incur an additional charge.
  • The resident has a right to privacy including care for personal needs, visits with family and friends, and communication with others through telephone and mail.
  • Residents have the right to share a room with a spouse, gather with other residents without staff present, and meet state and local nursing home ombudspersons or any other agency representatives.
  • Residents may leave the nursing home, or belong to any church or social group. Within the home, residents have a right to manage their own financial affairs.
  • Residents also can get up and go to bed when they choose, eat a variety of snacks outside of meal times, decide what to wear, choose activities, and decide how to spend their time. Residents, not staff, determine their hours of sleep and visits to the bathroom. Residents may self-administer medication.
  • Residents may bring personal possessions to the nursing home such as clothing, furnishings and jewelry.
  • Residents should expect kind, courteous, and professional behavior from staff.
  • Nursing home residents may not be moved to a different room, a different nursing home, a hospital, back home or anywhere else without advance notice, an opportunity for appeal and a showing that such a move is in the best interest of the resident.
  • The resident has a right to be free of interference, coercion, discrimination, and reprisal in exercising his or her rights.