When a resident is admitted to a nursing home, it may feel as if things are out of their control and that they are at the “mercy” of the facility.  Any person requiring nursing home care should be able to enter any facility and receive appropriate care, be treated with courtesy and enjoy continued civil and legal rights.  The New York State Department of Health requires all nursing homes to adhere to a “Patient Bill of Rights” and distribute a booklet “Your Rights as a Nursing Home Resident. “  This booklet is designed to provide information so that residents, and their loved ones, are aware of these rights. It is important that residents and their representatives communicate regularly with nursing home staff to ensure a meaningful, respectful, and helpful environment.

Some of rights noted include, but are not limited to: equal access to quality care and nondiscrimination during the admission process.  Also, residents have the right to vote and to participate in a resident counsel if so desired.  Residents have the right to be free from verbal, mental or physical abuse.  Additionally, residents have the right to examine the most recent federal/state survey, receive information from agencies acting as resident’s advocates and given an opportunity to contact these agencies.

All residents should be treated with dignity and respect, and with care and compassion.  Residents are to be afforded the opportunity to voice grievances.  Every nursing home has a policy and a process for issues to be heard and investigated in a timely manner, as residents deserve a prompt resolution.  Residents have the right to a locked storage space, if desired.

Regarding care, residents have the right to adequate and appropriate medical care, including nursing, rehabilitation therapies, social work, dental and other professional services for which the resident has been assessed to show the need.  Residents also have the right to be fully informed by a doctor in a language or a form that can be understood (using an interpreter when necessary) of their total health status, including but not limited to their medical condition including diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plan.

Residents will be afforded an opportunity to review their medical records should they choose to do so.  They have the right to confidentiality and to question and participate in their plan of care.  A resident’s pain should be managed at all times.

Nursing homes, following the guidelines of the Department of Health, also provide education regarding Advance Care Planning.  This gives residents the opportunity to appoint someone they trust, such as a family member or close friend, to be their health care agent to decide about treatment if they lose the ability to decide for themselves.

Though these rights are clearly stated and practiced in nursing homes, I always like to remind nursing home residents, or their agents, to speak up. While residents do have rights, they and their agents also have responsibilities:  to participate in the care planning process and to express issues and concerns.  Residents should feel as though they have some control over their care and accommodations while staying in a nursing home, and knowing their rights and responsibilities is a good place to start.

By Dorian Froelich, LMSW
Dorian is the Director of Social Work & Admissions at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

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