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Understanding rights can help to prevent nursing home abuse

North Carolina residents with loved ones in nursing homes may worry about the quality of care their family members or friends are receiving. While isolated instances of nursing home abuse may occur, understanding the legal rights of the residents of nursing homes can reduce the likelihood of neglect and abuse in extended care facilities.

Federal guidelines state that each institution shall have written procedures and policies that were developed and implemented to prevent any neglect, abuse or mistreatment of the facility's residents. Nursing home residents are entitled to verbal and written notices of the services and rights to which they are authorized to receive while a resident of the facility.

When residents are admitted or prior to the admission, they should receive the notification in a language they understand. It should also be handed out periodically during the length of their stay, and receipt must be acknowledged in writing by the residents.

Some specific rights of residents of nursing home include the following:

-- To keep and use their own possessions and wear their own clothing, unless their doing so presents safety or health dangers.

-- To see and contact service providers, resident advocates or ombudsmen, family members, doctors and federal and state government representatives.

-- To make application for and receive benefits from Medicaid and Medicare and protection from being asked to leave a facility for receiving benefits.

-- To have their personal and medical records remain confidential.

-- To be treated equally with all other residents, no matter the status of payment for services, i.e., Medicaid, Medicare or private pay.

-- Residents shall not be restrained physically or pharmaceutically unless restraint is necessary for treatment of medical symptoms.

-- The right to refuse treatment.

-- To be free from physical and mental abuse.

-- To not be kept separated from other nursing home residents against their will.

-- To participate in community, religious and social activities as long as their participation doesn't interfere with other residents' rights.

-- To be kept fully informed about their medical treatments.

-- To have input in planning their treatment and care.

-- To voice grievances that are then quickly resolved.

If nursing home residents' rights have been violated or abuses or neglect has occurred, they or their family members may seek legal redress in necessary to resolve the situation.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Rights of Nursing Home Residents" Jul. 29, 2014

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