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State Laws Protecting Nursing Home Patients

Our personal injury lawyers at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, are legal advocates for nursing home patients harmed through another's negligence. Call our nursing home abuse legal team at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation.

Currently, there are many state and federal laws in place to ensure the residents of nursing homes are safe from abuse and exploitation. Most of this legislation came into being in the past two decades, when injuries in nursing homes began to be documented more frequently.

State Laws Protecting Nursing Home Residents

Many state regulations and consumer protection laws are in place to protect nursing home residents and ensure that health and safety violations in nursing homes get reported. Here are some of these laws:

Title XX of the Social Security Act

The Title XX program is present in every state across the country and provides funding to the states to provide care for the disabled and the elderly in the community. The program also aims to prevent neglect and abuse in nursing homes.

The states get funding for these social services via the Social Services Block Grant from the federal government. Each state can individually decide how they use the funds and who will be eligible to receive the benefits in the community.

Typically, the funds are spent on the vulnerable groups in the population, giving them the following services:

  • Crisis nurseries
  • Senior transportation
  • Senior counseling
  • Family support
  • Developmental disabilities services
Older Americans Act

As the name indicates, the Older Americans Act is a program to provide comprehensive care services to the elderly through community and network of state agencies regulating nursing home operations. Along with ensuring the elderly's health, the program also focuses on their nutritional needs.

Medicare & Medicaid Services

For decades, Medicare & Medicaid Services have been managed by the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals that receive federal and state funds.

However, the rules and regulations managed by state and community agencies work to quell the existing health care disparities that place the elderly at significant risk of inhumane treatment and poor care.

Arkansas law passed the "No Patient Left Alone Act." This Arkansas law ensuring that the nursing home resident had someone at their bedside as an advocate during lockdowns affected those living in such an isolated world during the pandemic.

CMS initially banned visitors to nursing facilities but eventually allowed the nursing homes to open visiting hours during a lockdown citing "compassionate care."

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is also available in every state across the country and advocates for the rights of nursing home residents. Moreover, the program works to resolve any problems faced by individual residents in nursing homes.

Each state has an Ombudsman's Office where they deal with individual complaints. In addition, any nursing home resident and the family group can file a formal complaint.

Individuals State Laws

New Jersey lawmakers approved the new law regulating New Jersey nursing homes, voting for a bill where facilities must spend a minimum of 90% of their annual revenue on direct care for their residents.

In addition, by law, New Jersey nursing facilities must ensure at least one certified nursing aide works during the afternoon and night shift as an essential support person, even if it violates the nursing home's own staffing rules.

Additionally, New York nursing homes must spend a minimum of 70%, where 40% of that must pay direct care workers.

In 2019, the Massachusetts Governor approved regulations that mandate nursing homes devote a minimum of 75% toward direct-care staffing costs. In addition, the Illinois Department of Public Health provides grant money from state funds obtained when private and public nursing homes settle health and safety violations.

Rhode Island's new law mandates nursing facilities to provide every resident a minimum of 3.58 hours of daily care. Additionally, the newly approved federal and state laws ensure the facility has at least one Registered Nurse on duty around the clock every day.

Nursing Home Reform Act

The Nursing Home Reform Act was enacted in 1987 and ensures that nursing home residents get a certain standard of quality care. As per the legislation, each resident in the nursing home benefits from the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights states that each nursing home resident has the following rights:

  • Freedom from nursing home abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
  • Right to privacy
  • Freedom from any physical restraints
  • Right to be treated with dignity
  • Right to the accommodation of social, physical, medical, and psychological needs
  • Right to participant in family and resident groups
  • Right to free communication
  • Right to self-determination
  • Right to talk about their grievances without reprisal or any discrimination
  • Right to be fully informed about any change in their treatment or care
  • Right to review their care plan
Right to be Fully Informed

Every resident in the nursing home facility has an absolute right to know about treatment and how they are being cared for by staff members. In addition, they can ask about the available services and know the charges for them.

Additionally, they have a right to owning a written copy of the resident's rights and know the rules and regulations in the nursing home facility. More importantly, they have the right to have access to the State Ombudsman's office telephone number and address.

If there is a change in roommates or rooms, the resident has a right to know about it beforehand. Plus, the law requires nursing homes to convey this information to residents in a language they clearly understand, including Braille.

Right to Complain

If the nursing home residents are not getting their due rights or are being mistreated, they have the right to complain about it to the authorities. In addition, they can talk about their grievances with a person from their family or the staff, and they should be able to do so without fearing any reprisal.

Elderly adults also have the right to file a complaint with the certification agency and the state survey.

Right to Privacy

While it's true that some patients require immediate attention and need always to have sufficient nursing staff around, it does not mean that the nursing home residents should be stripped of their privacy.

All elderly in nursing homes have the right to confidentiality during communication with any person they want. They also have the right to privacy during their care and treatment. Additionally, privacy should extend to their personal, financial, and medical affairs.

Right to Participation in Personal Care

If an elderly in a nursing home is in a sound state of mind and can comprehend the implications of the medical treatment being offered to them, they have the right to refuse the treatment or medication. They can also refuse physical and chemical restraints.

More so, the Act gives them the right to receive appropriate and adequate care while being informed of any change in the status of their medical condition.

They can participate in their discharge, treatment, care planning, and assessment. This right extends to all, especially when residents contracted a contagious disease. Many nursing home residents and family groups were concern about the increasing Covid-related death rates in nursing facilities and were aware of the key risk factors to living in close quarters of a nursing home life.

Right to Dignity and Freedom

While nursing home residents are often dependent on the facility's staff, it does not translate to their freedom and dignity being stripped.

Instead, nursing home residents have the right to self-determination, security of possessions, and be treated with utmost dignity, respect, and consideration.

The Act also emphasizes their right to be free from corporal punishment, chemical restraints, mental abuse, physical restraints, physical abuse, and involuntary seclusion.

Right to Speak to or Associate with Anyone of Choice

Nursing home residents have the right to talk to, associate with, and be visited by a person of their choice at any time. They also have the right to direct their care and treatment, live comfortably, and access unrestricted calling and mail service.

Right to Make Decisions on Own Money Matters

Some nursing home residents cannot manage their personal financial affairs due to mental incapacity or physical limitations. However, the law requires the facility to encourage such patients to make decisions about their finances while handling them responsibly, and this is also done without third-party interference.

It is also the responsibility of nursing homes to ensure that the patients' rights are protected during transfer, whether out-of-state or within the facility, including protecting their money and possessions.

Finally, nursing home residents in Illinois have the right to complain about the substandard quality of care, neglect, and mistreatment. The complaint will be taken seriously, with the appropriate action taken to resolve it without delay.

Rights During Discharges/Transfers

The residents of nursing homes are given the right to stay in the nursing home unless a discharge or transfer is:

  • Important to ensure their welfare
  • Appropriate as the resident's health has gotten better, and they do not need to remain in the facility any longer
  • Required to safeguard the safety and health of the nursing home staff and other residents
  • Required due to the resident's failure to pay the facility charges even after reasonable notices

Nursing home residents being discharged or transferred from a nursing home have the right to be safely discharged from the nursing home. They should also be given a thirty-day notice before they are transferred or discharged. The notice should include:

  • Effective date
  • The location where they are being transferred
  • Reason for discharge of transfer
  • Information (telephone number, address, and name) of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman in the state
  • The right to appeal
Right to Visits

The residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities must have visitation rights with their friends, relatives, or anyone else they want to meet. Their doctors and state representatives can also meet with them.

Moreover, organizations working for the legal, social, and healthcare of the elderly can meet the residents, according to the Nursing Home Reform Act. But, most importantly, nursing home residents have the right to refuse meeting with any visitor.

Right to Make Choices

When living in the nursing home facility, the residents have the right to make their own independent decisions, such as spending their leisure time or wearing whatever they want.

They can also select a physician of their liking and choose accommodation according to their preferences and needs. The Act also gives them the right to participate in community activities, be it in or out of the nursing home.

More importantly, residents have the right to manage their financial affairs and participate in or organize a Resident Council.

Residents' Rights in Other Languages

The nursing home resident's rights have been translated into the following languages to make them more accessible to the population:

  • English
  • Spanish
  • French
  • Chinese
  • Korean
  • Tagalog
  • Russian
  • Arabic
  • German
  • Greek
  • Japanese
  • Polish
  • Braille
After Pandemic Ravaged Nursing Homes, New Federal and State Laws Protect Residents

As the pandemic hit, most residents were left unvisited in nursing homes for over a year. During this time, there was a lot of scary news, and the staff walked around with shields and face masks, raising the anxiety levels among residents.

Different legislatures offered bills where the law requires nursing homes to follow the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law to "promote and protect the rights of each resident." For instance, Connecticut enacted a law instructing nursing homes to allow their residents to designate a 'support person' who would take care of loved ones in a public health emergency.

The state also gave free Internet access paid to federal funds and grants to nursing homes so that residents can stay virtually in touch with their families.

Besides Connecticut, 23 other states also passed over 70 nursing homes laws in the wake of the pandemic. Many members of the Illinois State Senate were concerned about the devastating impact of social isolation among nursing home patients during the pandemic.

Most of these regulations were around staffing, mandating virtual access to communication, restricted room occupancy, and full-time appointment of infection control specialists in the facilities.

What Happens if the Nursing Home Residents' Legal Rights are Denied?

If the facility is violating a nursing home resident's legal right, this person can file a complaint against the same with their state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO). The LTCO will take up the case and investigate it.

If found guilty, the violation must be fixed immediately. In addition, in some cases, the LTCO may invalidate a provision in the facility's contract or revoke its license.

State laws have given nursing home residents numerous rights. But there is still a lot of work to protect them from different forms of neglect and abuse.

The reform acts were passed in 1987, and since then, several amendments have been made to them. But much more work needs to be done for the betterment of nursing home residents. According to Patient Rights, nearly one-third of all nursing homes are under state or federal investigation for violating residents' rights.

You can file a complaint with the state department whenever you find abuse involving a caretaker, family member, friend, visitor, employee, or another patient. You may also contact an attorney or a law firm and ask them to take up your case and win it for you.

The elderly population is increasing day by day. For example, it has been estimated that in 2023 there will be 80 million Americans above 65 years of age living in nursing homes throughout the country.

We must be careful about the care of our aging parents and relatives who are living in a nursing home. They need a lot of love, patience, and support from us to make their life comfortable. If you have any concerns or questions regarding your loved one, contact a family lawyer today.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is a serious form of maltreatment that can happen to anyone over the age of 60. Unfortunately, elder abuse happens to 5% of the elderly population across America. In 2015, nearly 10,000 cases were reported, but as many as 80% go unreported as victims are too terrified to speak up or seek help from law enforcement authorities.

The kinds of elder abuse include physical, emotional, sexual, and financial. While all types cause many traumas to the victim, financial abuse is a serious issue that plagues many victims. Financial elder abuse involves illegally using another person's resources for specific ends without their consent or planning to acquire said resources by ill-intended means.

When a nursing home resident's legal rights are being violated by the facility — such as not allowing them to receive visitors or forcing them to use their prescribed meds — they could file a complaint with the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO).

The LTCO will take up the case and investigate it. If found guilty, the violation must be fixed immediately. In some cases, the LTCO may even invalidate a provision in the facility's contract or revoke its license.

The number of complaints in Illinois from nursing home residents in the past few years has been recorded in 2011 (363 complaints), 2012 (548), 2013 (490), 2014 (614). Every year, this number is increasing.

The public health department took up elder abuse cases , and nursing homes where neglect or abuse was found against residents were issued deficiency citations, including corrective plans.

The state began taking these violations very seriously and hired more personnel to handle the complaints. As a result, last year (2017), nursing homes in Illinois were issued deficiency citations only 37 times.

How to Report Elder Abuse?

According to comprehensive federal rules, you should report any elder maltreatment or abuse if you see it happening around you.

For example, did your loved one suffer from emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal use of resources, physical abuse, neglect, or abandonment? If so, you should immediately report the situation to your local authorities.

In some cases, even a decline in health could be considered elder abuse. However, if the caretaker cannot provide essential services or treatment, filing an official complaint with your state department would not be wrong.

When you report elder abuse, they may ask you to write a statement with all the details. In the beginning, your statement may be treated as an anonymous report, but later, it is assumed that if your loved one's case goes to trial, they would have to testify against the accused.

To avoid such situations, you can contact a family lawyer to write your statement for you. They are trained professionals who know the legal system well and can write a strong case against the abuse or maltreatment that has happened to your loved one.

Data reveals that many people do not take elder maltreatment seriously even though it is a serious crime under state laws.

What are the Signs of Elder Abuse?

If you suspect that your loved one is being abused in a nursing home, here are some signs to help you out:

  • Sudden change in behavior or mood – Older people often do not completely comprehend their situation and cannot act rationally when they are stressed. Therefore, if the treatment they receive depresses them suddenly, it could be a sign of emotional abuse.
  • Unexplained injuries, bruises, or scars on their body – If you see any injury that has not been there before, it could be a sign of physical abuse or neglect.
  • They are given medications they do not need. Sometimes people with dementia are forced to take certain medicines without their consent, significantly impacting their health. If you see your loved one taking their meds unwillingly, it could be a sign of elder abuse.
Domestic Abuse in Nursing Homes: A Hidden Crisis

Many people do not realize that domestic violence also happens in nursing homes, and there are many cases to prove it. For example, an elder abuse study found about 25% of the cases involved domestic violence.

The perpetrators are mostly the family members or caregivers of the patients who have increased access to them. When you think about people's lives in nursing homes, they have less freedom, and their family members are always around them, so it is easier for an abuser to gain control over them.

In some cases, the abusers have hired help or a home health aide who has more easy access to residents with no one around to interfere.

However, it is not true that all family members and authorized personnel are abusers, as many caregivers provide great care and assistance without misbehaving. If you suspect that an abuser is living around your loved one, here are some clues:

  • The caregiver and the patient appear to be very close or intimate than expected for a caretaker and their patient.
  • The victim always seems depressed and unwilling to associate with other people because of emotional abuse.
  • The caretaker does not allow others to give your loved one a bath or shower.
  • The patient always seems distressed, just like they are in fear of something. They may even refuse to go back home with you when you visit the nursing home.
Effects of Elder Abuse on Victims: When You See It, Report It

Sometimes elder abuse is not physical, and there are many cases when the abusers use different tactics to control their victims. The victim may be very dependent on their abuser, making it difficult for you to help.

In such a situation, your loved one might become defensive or even deny that they are being abused, which could result from emotional abuse.

They may be isolated from their social circles, making it difficult to get help from the outside world. If you find out that your loved one is being abused, try a direct conversation with them and let them know about their rights.

If an abuser is controlling them, you should report this to the nursing home administrator so that they can check on your loved one.

Nursing Home Resident Right Laws FAQs

Our law firm understands that many families have unanswered questions about protecting a nursing home resident from neglect or abuse. A personal injury attorney has answered some of those questions below.

Contact our law office at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for additional information.

What is one of the most significant state laws protecting nursing home patients?

The Nursing Home Reform Act is one of the most significant pieces of legislation since it specifies all the rights of nursing home residents.

Moreover, the Nursing Home Reform Act also identifies that nursing home residents can complain if they face nursing home abuse.

Are there any laws for the LGBT Community in nursing homes?

Yes, the Ombudsman's factsheet highlights the LGBTQ residents' rights and provides options to them for reporting neglect or abuse. Plus, the fact sheet discusses where the residents can complain and find resources for LGBTQ advocacy.

What are Residents' Rights?

The nursing home residents have an absolute right to protect their dignity and privacy. They should also get proper medical treatment and access to personal belongings. The nursing homes must follow the patients' consent before giving them any medication or treatment.

The facilities should provide them with freedom of movement and enough opportunities for activities and socializing. According to regulations managed by state and community agencies, nursing homes must also ensure that all the residents receive equal and fair treatment.

What Happens if the Legal Rights of Nursing Home Residents are Denied?

Facilities that fail to protect the resident's legal rights could be guilty of nursing home abuse. In addition, the facility must treat all its residents equally and never discriminate between them.

Families can file a complaint against the facility if they are not following the patient's consent before giving them any medication or treatment. The nursing homes must also ensure that all the residents receive equal and fair treatment.

Hire a Personal Injury Attorney to resolve a Nursing Home Abuse Case

Was your loved one injured or killed due to nursing home neglect, mistreatment, or abuse? If so, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to help with your case. A lawyer can help investigate whether there is any sign of neglect or abuse and what rights your family member had under federal law.

Call the affiliated personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form today to schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

Our legal team accepts all personal injury cases and wrongful death lawsuits through contingency fee agreements. This promise ensures you pay nothing until we resolve your case through a negotiated settlement or jury trial award.


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