Know Your Rights: What Nursing Homes Can’t Do

knowledge-is-powerWhether you’re looking for a nursing home for a loved one or trying to evaluate a home where a loved one is staying, it’s helpful to know the “rules” that the nursing home must play by. A nursing home must uphold specific standards of care for people who reside there. But it’s equally important to become familiar with what the law prevents them from doing. Families for Better Care has recently written a great guide about things nursing homes cannot do. I’ve summarized a few nursing home resident rights below. This knowledge of the “rules” will help you protect yourself or your loved ones during a stay of any length in a skilled nursing facility.

Nursing homes can’t discriminate. Federal law prohibits skilled nursing facilities from turning down residents based on race, color, religion, age, sex, or any other protected characteristic.

Nursing homes can’t charge up-front. Some types of retirement homes, like assisted living, may require large deposits before moving in. But skilled nursing facilities may not charge these fees.

Nursing homes can’t guess about health. Staff members must give health assessments to all residents every day. These assessments cover everything from physical and mental health to self-care and decision-making abilities. They’re an important basis for determining treatment plans and Medicare eligibility.

Nursing homes can’t confiscate financial control. Regardless of their mental state, residents cannot be required to relinquish control of their finances. They may give written consent to allow nursing homes to manage their personal funds. But in return, they must receive quarterly statements and access to their accounts.

Nursing homes can’t restrict human rights. Federal law protects residents’ right to be treated with dignity and respect. This means that within the reasonable limits of their care plan, residents can make their own decisions. This includes bedtime and meals, privacy and personal property, visitors and interpersonal relationships.

Nursing homes can’t hide the truth. Nurses may want to sugarcoat bad news when talking to someone who’s in poor mental or physical health. But that’s not technically legal; all nursing home residents have the right to know their true diagnoses and prescriptions. This also means that nursing homes can’t refuse to share full medical records with patients.

Nursing homes can’t conceal shortened Medicare coverage. Sometimes Medicare coverage ends earlier than expected because it no longer deems nursing care medically reasonable and necessary. Nursing homes must notify residents when and why financial assistance is ending before they can continue to bill charges. Beyond this, however, Medicare does not require nursing homes to keep track of anyone’s Medicare benefits.

Nursing homes can’t punish you for complaints. Whether you’re the resident or a caregiver, you have the right to complain about any problems in a nursing home, from falls to bedsores to improper feeding. If the nursing home’s management doesn’t satisfactorily address your complaints, here’s how to report nursing home abuse in Ohio.