Sad Older Man; Nurse in BackgroundIf you have a family member in a nursing home, you may be concerned about your relative's care and safety. Although nursing homes must be licensed and must meet legal standards, problems sometimes occur. Dissatisfied residents and family members may deal with these issues by filing a complaint, suing in court, or requesting arbitration (a process that settles legal issues without taking them to court).

Nursing Homes Must Provide Agreed-Upon Services

The nursing home must provide services based on the resident's needs and level of independence. Residents in independent living units receive few services. Those in assisted living units eat in the facility dining room and receive some assistance with their activities of daily living. Skilled nursing units provide a high level of medical and nursing care. If the nursing home fails to provide the agreed-upon level of assistance, the resident may complain to the state long-term care ombudsman or sue the nursing home for breach of contract.

Nursing Home Residents Have Legal Rights

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform law spells out the rights of nursing home residents. This federal law guarantees that competent residents have the right to privacy and confidentiality, to make decisions about their care, to move to a less-restrictive environment, and to be informed about all aspects of their care. Residents of nursing homes also have the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be free from abuse and neglect. Each state has a long-term-care ombudsman who advocates for nursing home residents when there is evidence that their rights have been violated.

Residents Can Appeal a Discharge or Transfer Decision

Residents have the right to remain in the nursing home unless they decide to move or the facility transfers or discharges them. If the home decides to transfer or discharge the resident, it must provide 30 days' written notice. Acceptable reasons for a nursing home to move a patient include a change in level of care, failure to pay for services, or concern for the safety of the staff or other residents.

Nursing Homes Must Meet State and Federal Standards

A nursing home must be licensed by the state. If it receives money from Medicare, it must also meet federal standards. State and federal agencies inspect nursing homes to verify staffing levels and a safe environment. If a resident complains about conditions in the nursing home, the agency will investigate. If violations are found, a facility can be fined or even closed until violations have been corrected.

An Elder Law Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding care for older adults and the disabled in nursing homes can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an elder law lawyer.

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