When you or a loved one enter a skilled nursing facility for care, you are entitled to certain rights as a patient. Nursing homes will explain these rights before or at the time of admission, and new residents sign a form acknowledging they understand their legal protections.
Protecting patient privacy, quality of life and personal dignity are some of the reasons federal and state governments establish minimum nursing home rights.
Skilled nursing facilities accredited by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare, for example, need to follow federal rules outlining patient rights. These rights include being able to participate in activities, get treatment free from discrimination, and remain fully informed about your or your loved one’s medical condition and all medications and supplements. The Social Security Act also requires nursing homes to protect and promote the rights of its residents, including the right to ensure dignity, privacy, confidentiality, and respect.
The Sunshine State
Many state laws also guarantee some nursing home resident rights. In Florida, for example, the Department of Elder Affairs states that residents retain their rights as citizens when they enter a nursing home (see my letter to The Miami Herald on voting and dementia). Florida nursing home residents also have the right to privacy in certain situations, such as when receiving mail or making phone calls; during medical treatment and while taking care of personal needs.
The state also guarantees residents the ability to participate in social, religious, and community activities that do not interfere with the rights of others.
Seeing is Believing
Many facilities summarize and post legal protections for all patients in one place. When choosing a nursing home or skilled nursing facility for you or a loved one, ask to see this document. If clearly posted in the facility, it’s usually a good sign that staff is aware and trained to respect these protections.
The rules and regulations in a nursing home are also in place to protect the rights and safety of other residents. I believe skilled nursing facilities that provide high quality care embrace these rules and regulations as part of a service philosophy to treat residents with as much dignity and respect as possible.