State and federal laws guarantee certain legal rights for nursing home residents. For example, federal law grants nursing home patients the right to communicate freely with their loved ones, the right to choose their own physicians, and the right to review their own medical records. Most importantly, federal law gives residents the right to be free from abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, staff members at nursing homes frequently violate residents’ rights by mistreating or ignoring patients, which can lead to serious injuries, debilitating illnesses, and in extreme cases, wrongful death.
If your mom or dad lives at a nursing home, and you suspect that his or her legal rights were violated, you should speak with a nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible to review your options and determine whether legal action is appropriate. Depending on how your parent’s rights were violated, and whether harm resulted, your mother or father could be entitled to financial compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other consequences of the abuse or neglect.
At the Wieand Law Firm, our attorneys have years of experience holding negligent nursing homes accountable. If you believe that a nursing home violation caused your elderly parent or grandparent to be injured, killed, sexually abused, or financially exploited, we urge you to contact our law offices immediately for a free legal consultation.
What Legal Rights Do Nursing Home Residents Have?
Over the past few decades, several laws have been enacted to establish a body of legal rights for residents of nursing homes throughout the United States. The primary federal law that creates rights for nursing home residents is called the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA, OBRA-87). Sometimes, OBRA is called the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA, NHRA). Finally, OBRA is codified at 42 U.S. Code § 1395i-3. Each of these terms, acronyms, and legal statutes refers to the same law.
Whether described as OBRA, the NHRA, or 42 U.S. Code § 1395i-3, the law grants numerous rights that affect various areas of a nursing home resident’s daily life. For example, some of the rights established under OBRA deal with medical care, while others involve visitation with relatives, and others still involve privacy or confidentiality. Below, you’ll find just a few of the many rights that nursing home residents are ensured under OBRA.
- Rights to Quality Care – Under OBRA, “A skilled nursing facility must provide services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.” In other words, nursing homes must provide services that will give residents the best possible quality of life. This involves creating a written care plan that details how each resident’s medical and social needs will be met.
- Rights to Make Decisions About Medical Care – Unless (1) there is an immediate safety emergency, or (2) another person has established a guardianship or conservatorship over a resident who is incapacitated due to advanced dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or other conditions, residents generally have the right to make their own decisions about the treatment and care they receive. For example, nursing home patients have the right to:
- Be notified of changes in their condition.
- Not be charged for services that are already covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
- Not be sedated without medical need. Sedatives are sometimes described as “chemical restraints.”
- Refuse medication.
- Review their medical records.
- Rights Related to Transfer and Discharge – Nursing home residents have rights when they are being transferred to a different facility, and/or when they are being discharged (sent home) from a facility. For example, residents have the right to:
- Appeal (challenge) the discharge order.
- Be treated safely and carefully during the transfer process.
- Remain at the facility, unless certain conditions are met – for instance, a resident may be discharged if the discharge is necessary for the health and safety of other residents.
- Rights to Make or File Complaints – Nursing home patients are guaranteed the right to:
- File formal complaints with ombudsman programs.
- File formal complaints with the survey and certification agencies in their state.
- Raise complaints with staff members, without being intimidated, penalized, or retaliated against in any way.
What to Do if a Nursing Home Employee Violates a Patient’s Rights
If you think that an employee at your loved one’s nursing home has violated any of the rights that are guaranteed under OBRA, or by similar laws at the state level, there are several actions you can take to address the situation and get your family member into a safer, more stable environment.
The first step is having a clear conversation with the nursing home’s administrators. Try to remain as calm as possible, and address your concerns frankly and in detail. Misunderstandings occasionally arise, and it’s possible that a simple conversation could resolve the problem.
Unfortunately, there are also many cases where the issue runs far deeper than a mere miscommunication. If the administrators are not able to satisfactorily explain the situation, and do not absolutely reassure you that your loved one is completely free from abuse and neglect, you should consider filing a formal complaint. Each state has its own agency for reporting nursing home abuse, usually called an “ombudsman” program.
Be aware that filing a complaint with a government agency is not the same as filing a claim or lawsuit against the nursing home. If you wish to sue a nursing home, you will need assistance from an attorney for nursing home negligence.
Contact Our Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys
It’s a devastating blow to learn that your mother or father has been injured or neglected by a person you trusted to provide compassionate care. You are likely to be feeling confusion and outrage, and may not know what to do or where to turn. Our nursing home abuse lawyers are ready to help answer your questions, discuss your legal role as a family member, and help you make a decision about how to proceed.
Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to sue or bring a claim against the nursing home where the violation took place. A claim or lawsuit can give you the opportunity to recover financial compensation, and even more importantly, hold the nursing home responsible for the violation that hurt your loved one.
The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is committed to sending a clear message that nursing home abuse will not be tolerated. Our mission is to achieve a favorable outcome that helps you gain a sense of closure, and allows your family to begin the healing process in earnest. To talk about your claim or lawsuit in a free, completely confidential legal consultation, contact us right away.