When you enter a nursing home, you have specific rights that protect your dignity and self-determination while you are a resident. These rights should be posted in a prominent place in the facility. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 specifically says that you have the right to:

  • Participate in the plan of care process*
  • Make independent personal decisions and be informed about available choices
  • Appoint a representative as your advocate who will be informed of your condition and care
  • Appeal any discharge or transfer notices
  • Share a room with a spouse, partner, or relative if they are also a resident of the facility
  • Communicate privately with anyone you choose
  • Send and receive personal mail unopened
  • Participate in your facility’s residence council
  • Meet and participate with religious, social, and community groups
  • Assemble and work with other residents or other individuals within or outside the facility to ask for improvements in patient care
  • Be encouraged and assisted in exercising your rights as a citizen without fear of interference or discrimination for your actions
  • Be free from physical and chemical restraints (drugs) imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience, and not required to treat your medical symptoms

*Nursing homes are required to assess your needs and create a written plan of care for you within 21 days of your admission. The goal of this plan should be to help you stay as independent as possible. You should to the extent possible be an active participant in the creation of this plan. Read over the plan and make sure you agree with it. You may also want to discuss the plan with your doctor and/or a family member or caregiver to make sure it meets your medical needs.

If you have concerns about your facility, contact your state’s long-term care ombudsman. An ombudsman is an advocate that can serve as a liaison between you and the facility. Ombuds programs can help you locate facilities in your area, troubleshoot problems, and answer other questions relating to your coverage and care.

Return to: Medicare Basics

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