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What Are My Rights as a Nursing Home Resident?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

What Are My Rights as a Nursing Home Resident?

Nursing home residents have certain rights and protections under both state and federal laws. Not only is a nursing home in Illinois required to provide residents with their rights in writing, but any violation of these rights can result in an official complaint or lawsuit if there are significant damages.

How Nursing Home Resident Rights Work in Chicago

As a nursing home resident, you are guaranteed protection under the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law (NHRL). This law is a model that serves as a public policy for residents and nursing home companies.

Under this federal policy, nursing homes must not only protect the rights of residents but advocate for their residents. Nursing homes must meet all federal requirements if they are to participate and receive compensation through Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Some states have their own nursing home rights and regulations too. A nursing home operating in one of these states must adhere to the state’s rights and regulations in addition to the federal standards for compliance.

In Illinois, 210 ILCS 45, Nursing Home Care Act, lists residents rights too. Therefore, we will explore not only your federal rights but those also specific to the state of Illinois.

Federal Nursing Home Resident Rights to Know

Under the federal law, nursing homes must care for their residents and promote a quality of life for those residents.

That includes providing services and activities to ensure the highest degree of mental, physical, and emotional well-being – all that is outlined in an official care plan.

Under the NHRL, residents of nursing homes across the country have the right to:


All nursing home residents must be fully informed about services available to them at their nursing home and the costs of those services. They must also receive a copy of any nursing home rules, regulations, and their federal/state rights.

New residents and current residents must have access to the address and telephone of their Ombudsman and access to any state survey reports.

If the resident does not speak English, the nursing home is required to provide them with a copy of their rights and other important information in the language they do speak – including Braille for those who are blind.

The Right to Make a Complaint

All residents have the right to complain if they feel their rights are being violated. Grievances may be presented to staff and administrators, and the nursing home is federally barred from reprimanding or using adverse actions against that resident for their complaint.

Residents also have the right to send complaints to the state ombudsman program or file a complaint with the state survey.

The Right to Participate in Care Plans

A resident has the right to participate in their care and the creation of a written care plan. Not only must they receive adequate care based on specific needs, but be informed of changes, participate in assessments, and have the right to refuse medication or treatment.

They must also have the right to refuse any chemical or physical restraints and be free from paying out-of-pocket for services covered by Medicare or Medicaid programs.

The Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

Residents of nursing homes have the right to privacy and confidentiality just as a patient expects from a doctor. All treatments, medical, personal, and financial matters must be protected.

The Unique Rights During a Transfer or Discharge

In the event a resident is transferred to another facility or discharged, their rights continue and include:

  • The right to remain in the nursing home until adequate facilities are found
  • Health and safety protections during their transfer
  • Receive a 30-day written notice of a pending transfer or discharge that must include the reason, date, location for transfer, rights to appeal, and the ombudsman contact information
  • Safe transfer or discharge through proper preparation – including instructions or discharge care information

The Right of Respect, Freedom, and Dignity

A nursing home resident must be treated with respect, be free of abuse (including mental or emotional abuse), be treated with consideration and dignity, and have security of personal possessions stored on the premises.

The Right to Visitation

Residents are entitled to on-site visits by a physician, including the personal physician of their choosing. Furthermore, residents have the right to visitation from family, friends, and other individuals of their choosing. Visitors that offer social, legal, or health services are also allowed to visit the resident at their request. Residents equally have the right to refuse any visitors.

The Right to Independent Decision-Making

A resident has the right to make independent, personal decisions, including how to spend their free time or the clothing they want to wear. The nursing home must provide reasonable accommodations based on a resident’s needs. A resident also has the right to choose their treating physician, manage their finances or select a proxy, participate in the Resident Council, and participate in social activities inside and outside of the nursing home.

State Resident Rights to Know

Some of the Illinois nursing home resident rights do overlap federal rights, but they are equally essential to understand. If a nursing home violates state resident rights, you will file your complaint with the state survey agency as well as the Ombudsman.

Protection from Deprivation

Under 210 ILCS 45/2-101, no resident will be deprived of rights, benefices, or the privileges given to them by the law of the state or federal government just because they are a resident of a nursing home.

Financial Rights for Illinois Residents

All residents of Illinois nursing homes are entitled to:

  • Information on spousal impoverishment. Your nursing home must inform you and your spouse of any impoverishment rights upon your admission. Under that impoverishment, Medicaid covers the costs of a spouse’s nursing home expense and allows a spouse to live in the community and keep a specific amount of monthly income and assets.
  • Ability to manage your own finances. You have the right to manage your finances under Illinois resident rights. You are not required to sign over your finances, nor do you have to use a proxy assigned by the nursing home.
  • Management of nursing home accounts. If you wish, you can hold funds in a nursing home account, but the nursing home is required to keep your funds and account separate from other residents. They must also provide you with written records of any transactions, quarterly itemized statements, and allow you to receive funds back with a written request.

Property Rights for Illinois Residents

  • Use of personal property during your stay. You have the right to use personal belongings and clothing unless it is medically necessary or documented in a clinical record that you cannot.
  • Adequate storage space and safeguarding personal items. The state requires a nursing home to give you storage space for personal items, and they must provide you with means to protect personal belongings in your living space too.

Medical Rights for Illinois Residents

  • You have the right to continue using your physician.
  • You must be medically screened before entrance so that the facility can provide a written care plan based on your health needs.
  • You have the right to consult a physician with questions about a care plan, and you can participate in creating the plan.
  • You will not be subjected to experimental research or treatments without consent.
  • Any medical treatment (including medications or restraints used) must be prescribed by your treating physician, and the nursing home staff must review these requests within 24-hours of receipt.
  • You hold the right to refuse medical treatment.
  • You have access to all medical records.
  • You have the right to sign a do-not-resuscitate order, and the facility must honor that order.
  • You will receive annual influenza and pneumococcal vaccination.

Basic Resident Rights

Illinois wants to improve the quality of life for their residents, which is why the Act lists specific fundamental rights including:

  • The right to exercise free speech
  • Your right to practice the religion of your choice
  • Your right to not be discriminated against
  • Your right to room with a spouse in the nursing home
  • The right to access phone, email, mail, and visitation
  • Your right to not be forced to work for the nursing home as part of your keep
  • Your right to not have unnecessary restraints used on you unless the facility meets specific requirements

What If My Rights Are Violated?

If you think that your federal or state rights have been violated or you suspect that a nursing home is abusing a loved one, you have several steps to consider. First, if there is physical abuse, contact local law enforcement and file a police report. Then, contact your state Ombudsman and report the abuse or mishandling of the resident immediately.

Next, contact an attorney that handles nursing home abuse and neglect cases. While there are state and federal rights designed to protect residents, not all nursing homes honor these resident protections.

You have the right to hold a nursing home accountable for their neglect, abuse, and outright ignorance of the law.

Speak with an attorney today from Malman Law, and let our advocates fight for your nursing home rights.

Schedule a free consultation with our attorneys now at 888-625-6265 or request more information about nursing home abuse, rights, or neglect online.

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