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Residents' Rights: What You Need to Know

Residents rights are guaranteed by law to individuals living in nursing homes.

As Americans, we enjoy certain rights. We take them for granted. Have you ever wondered what happens to those rights if a person is incapacitated and needs to move into a nursing home? Does a person lose rights? Do their rights change in some way?

It's a question most of us don't think to ask. That's one of the reasons why Residents' Rights Month, held each October by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, is so important. Residents' Rights Month is a time when residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the country along with family members, ombudsmen, citizen advocates, facility staff, and others honor the individual rights of long-term care residents. The goal is to celebrate and focus on the awareness of dignity, respect, and the value of long-term care residents.

The rights of residents in nursing homes are guaranteed by the 1987 federal Nursing Home Reform Law, which requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident.” Strong emphasis is placed on an individual’s right to dignity and self-determination. Each facility that participates with the Medicare or Medicaid programs must adhere to these regulations so that means all the nursing homes in our area are governed by these rules.

The goal of nursing homes is “to provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident,” meaning the resident shouldn’t be negatively impacted by the way care is provided by the nursing home. In layman’s terms, a resident’s condition may decline due to the natural progression of age or debilitation, but it shouldn’t decline because of the way the facility cares for the person as they progress through their stages of debilitation. 

If you are a resident of a nursing home, what are your rights?

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to be fully informed of:

  1. Available services and cost

  2. The rules the facility has

  3. Your rights and responsibilities as a resident of the facility

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to be involved in your care and treatment. This includes:

  1. The right to refuse treatment

  2. The facility must keep you informed of any changes in medical condition

  3. You should be invited and encouraged to attend care plan meetings

  4. You should not be subject to physical or chemical restraints

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to Privacy and Confidentiality. This includes:

  1. Private communications with persons of your choice

  2. Privacy and confidentiality during treatment and regarding medical, personal, or financial affairs

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to Dignity and Respect. This includes:

  1. Freedom from mental and physical abuse, including physical and chemical restraints

  2. Security of personal possessions

  3. The ability to practice self-determination

YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to Make Independent Choices. This includes:

  1. Reasonable accommodation of needs and preferences

  2. The ability to make person decisions – what to wear, how to spend your time, etc.

  3. The ability to participate in resident council

  4. Managing your finances, if able


This includes:

  1. Meeting with visitors of choice

  2. Refusing visitors


Residents can only be discharged if:

  1. The health or safety of individuals in the facility is endangered

  2. The resident has improved and no longer needs the services

  3. It is necessary for the resident’s welfare or if the facility cannot meet the resident’s needs

  4. The resident has failed to pay after given reasonable notice

  5. The facility closes

There are very specific rules that govern discharges from a nursing facility. The facility must issue a 30-day written notice of discharge, which must cite the reason for discharge, the effective date of the discharge, discharge location, and appeal information, along with the contact information for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman who can assist the resident through the appeal. If you are a Kimbrough Law Life Care Planning client and your loved one is given a discharge notice, CALL THE OFFICE!!

Last, but certainly not least, is a set of rights that cover one of the last abilities we lose. That’s the RIGHT TO COMPLAIN!! The nursing home regulations address this and provide residents with the right to:

  1. Present a grievance to the staff without fear of reprisal; the facility must respond promptly to the concerns expressed and work with the resident to resolve them

  2. File a complaint with the state agency overseeing the facility

  3. Voice concerns to the ombudsman program, which is the federally mandated program constructed to provide residents with a professional advocate to assist with grievances

If you have any questions about Residents’ Rights, give the Kimbrough Law office a call at 706.850.6910.


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