A Look at Safety in Nursing Homes

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Look at Safety in Nursing Homes

You may wonder “what are patients rights?” if a family member or a loved one in a nursing home is exhibiting symptoms of abuse. People who need care in a nursing home environment are reliant on staff for assistance and so they are very vulnerable to abuse in any form. Whether that abuse is financial exploitation, medication errors, sexual harassment or assault, or even verbal belittling. Nursing home patients are not without protection from the law, however. Patient safety in nursing homes is often dependent on the existence of specific legal rights.


What are Patients Rights?

Safety in nursing homes is critical to maintain. This is why residents’ rights are part of the federal Nursing Home Reform Law enacted in 1987 in the Social Security Act. The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination.

According to the AARP, “The Nursing Home Reform Act specifies what services nursing homes must give residents and establishes standards for these services. Required services include: periodic assessments for each resident; a comprehensive care plan for each resident; nursing services; social services; rehabilitation services; pharmaceutical services; dietary services; and, if the facility has more than 120 beds, the services of a full-time social worker.” If a nursing home participates in Medicare or Medicaid, they are legally required to list and give all new residents a copy of these rights and adhere to them as long as they have patients in their care. Additional resident rights include –

Right to Respect:

  • Patients have the right to be treated with the fullest measure of consideration, respect and dignity.
  • Freedom from physical and mental abuse, involuntary seclusion, corporal punishment, and physical and chemical restraints.
  • Ability to maintain self-determination.

Right to Information:

  • Patients must receive a written copy of resident rights.
  • Service and fee information must be provided before a patient enters the nursing home.
  • Patients have the right to be informed about their medical condition, medications and to see their own doctor. Residents also have the right to refuse medications and treatments.
  • Patients must be informed of all nursing home services and any charge of service.
  • Patients must be provided a copy of any rules and regulations in the nursing home.
  • Notification must be provided in advance of any plans to changes in rooms or roommates.
  • Daily communication in the resident’s language must be available.

The Right to their Money and Possessions:

  • Patients must have the right to manage their own money or to choose someone trustworthy to do this for them.
  • There must be an ability for patients’ to file a complaint with the State Survey and Certification Agency for abuse, neglect, or misappropriation of their property if the nursing home is handling their financial affairs.
  • Patients must not receive charges for any services covered by Medicaid or Medicare.

The Right to Privacy:

  • Patients may keep and use personal belongings and property, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights, health, or safety of others in the nursing home’s care.
  • Communication with any person of their choice must be private and unrestricted.
  • Treatment and care must be private and unrestricted.
  • Medical, personal, or financial affairs must be confidential.

The Right to Receive Visitors:

  • A patient’s relatives, other individuals “subject to reasonable restriction”, along with their personal physician or representatives from the state must have immediate access.
  • Organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services must be provided with access.

The above list of rights is not comprehensive, but includes some of the most important patient rights. If you believe that any of these rights are being violated or if you’re concerned about the safety of a friend or relative in a nursing home, the personal injury lawyers of Malman Law can fight for you. We can build a solid and strategic case to collect compensation, stop the abuse and harassment, and bring any and all perpetrators or enablers to swift justice. After all, what are patients rights without anyone to back them up?


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