nursing home resident rights

What Your Rights Are as a Resident of a Nursing Home

Some signs of nursing home neglect may include: unexplained bruises or other relatively minor injuries, depression, withdrawal, weight loss, poor hygiene and general lack of cleanliness in the facility. More important, in cases of neglect or abuse, nursing home staff and administrators are often evasive when questioned. If you need to know the truth, an experienced attorney can help. Contact us.

The federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law guarantees rights to residents of nursing homes. If nursing facilities wish to benefit from federal funding, such as Medicaid or Medicare, they must abide by the statutory requirements for resident rights in their facility. Rights focus on quality of life, dignity, respect and the ability to make their own choices. Both state and federal laws contain a Resident’s Bill of Rights. Those include the rights of all United States citizens and/or resident aliens and focus on patient dignity and quality of life. If you or a loved one’s rights have been violated by a nursing home, contact an experienced elder law attorney at Burke Harvey, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama to discuss your legal options.

Resident Bill of Rights

States may have their own regulations regarding what rights must be given to each nursing home resident. Although some state laws may vary in regards to patient rights, some basic rights will be included in most regulatory laws. One regulatory right that all long-term care facilities must have is verbal and written notice of all resident rights available to patients. This notice must list and explain all rights and services provided to each resident. A facility will be violating state and federal regulations if such a notice is not provided. Additionally, some basic types of rights include financial, medical, social, safety and administrative rights.

Financial rights

Residents have the right to be fully informed (verbally and in writing) of not only services that the facility provides, but also any charges for services not provided by the nursing home, or extra charges that a resident may incur during their stay at the care facility. Resident must also be able to manage their own finances as long as they have the capacity to do so. Those who no longer have the capacity to manage their finances on their own, shall be informed of their financial status.

Medical rights

Patients of nursing home facilities shall be assured adequate medical care and be fully informed of their medical condition. Residents have the right to refuse medical treatment, choose their doctor, receive information on decisions regarding their care and to keep their medical records private. If the resident is mentally able to make decisions on their behalf, they should be given the opportunity to do so regarding medical decisions, changes and medical care.

Social rights

Patients of long-term care facilities have the right to be treated with respect, dignity and privacy. These rights may seem basic to all human beings. However, they are often violated when the patient is weak, frail of body or mind or intimidated. Residents should have the right to see their family, doctors, attorneys and others of their choosing. In addition, the right to communicate privately with individuals via telephone and mail are important for nursing home patients. Residents should have the right to keep their possessions and clothing and to participate in social, community and religious groups and activities as well.


Each individual has the right to be free of verbal, sexual or physical abuse. This right is important in the nursing home setting. Patients quality of life should be enhanced by living in a nursing facility, safety should never be in question. Abuse is something that loved ones should watch for when visiting a resident of a care facility. This includes safety measures used by facility staff members, commonly restraints. Restraints should be used by doctors orders for an individuals own safety. If restraints are used for any other reason, this is a misapplication of restraint and is abuse.


Nursing home residents have rights to participate in administrative processes regarding their own care. This includes notice of room change, roommate change, transfer and the opportunity to appeal any change. A patient can only be discharged or transferred from a facility for medical reasons. Financial means of a patient can never be used for transferal or ejectment from a facility. Individuals have the right to apply for Medicare or Medicaid, put be made aware of the application process from nursing home staff and must be treated the same as private payers. If an individual is not treated well or has complaints, he or she must be able to voice any concerns or grievances. This includes access and information on the facility complaint procedure, the ability to file a complaint about any mistreatment and information on where/how to file a complaint.

Along with the rights discussed above, nursing home facilities must also provide services under the Reform Act. Some of the services provided must include periodic assessment of all residents, a care plan for each resident, healthcare, nursing, rehabilitative, social and pharmaceutical services and availability to a social worker (for facilities with over 120 beds). If you or a loved one has been denied basic rights by a nursing home or its employees, contact an elder law attorney at Burke Harvey, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama to discuss possible legal compensation in your case.

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