Rights of Nursing Home Residents

When the federal government passed the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, nursing home residents were guaranteed certain rights. In Pennsylvania, the Health Care Facilities Act of 1979 (as amended in 1999) requires nursing homes to meet these minimum federal requirements. Pennsylvania law also requires nursing homes to be responsive and adequate to the needs of its citizens, assure that new health care services and facilities are efficiently and effectively used, continue to meet high quality standards, and assure that all residents receive humane, courteous, and dignified treatment. Under the law, nursing home residents have the following rights:

  1. To be free from verbal, mental, and physical abuse; corporal punishment; and involuntary seclusion.
  2. To be free from restraints - both chemical and physical - except as authorized in writing by a doctor for a specified and limited time period or when necessary to protect the resident or other residents from injury.
  3. To have safe, decent, and clean conditions.
  4. To be treated with consideration, respect, and full recognition of dignity and individuality, including privacy in treatment and care of personal needs.
  5. To be fully informed by a doctor of his or her medical condition, unless the doctor decides that informing the patient would be against the patient's best interests, and to participate in the planning of medical treatment.
  6. To refuse medical treatment as permitted by law and to be informed of the consequences of refusing medical treatment.
  7. To refuse to participate in experimental research.
  8. To have personal medical records treated in strict confidence.
  9. To have established daily visiting hours.
  10. To have visitation by an ombudsman, personal physician, family members, and all individuals that provide health, social, legal, or other services who wish to visit.
  11. To retain personal possessions and clothing as space permits, so long as doing so would not complicate a medical condition or infringe on another resident's rights.
  12. To participate in and meet with social, religious, and community groups.
  13. To send and receive personal, unopened mail.
  14. To associate and communicate privately with other individuals as desired.
  15. To manage personal financial affairs or to delegate that task to another person of the resident's choosing.
  16. To be fully informed of available services and related charges.
  17. To be encouraged and assisted to exercise rights as a patient and as a citizen and to voice grievances and recommend changes in policies and services to staff members or outside representatives without interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal.
  18. Not to be required to perform services for the nursing home that are not included in the resident's plan of care.
  19. If married, to be assured of privacy during spousal visits. If both spouses are residents of the nursing home, to be permitted to share a room, if medically feasible.
  20. To be transferred or discharged only for medical reasons, or for the resident's own welfare or the welfare of other residents, or for nonpayment (except as prohibited by Medicaid), and to be given reasonable advance notice of transfer or discharge.
  21. To be fully informed, as evidenced by a written acknowledgment, prior to or at the time of admission and during the stay, of all these rights and all rules and nursing home regulations that govern personal conduct and responsibilities.

In addition to these rights, read the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 that specifies what nursing homes must do to be in compliance with the law.

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