Friday, October 5, 2012

Understanding State Laws Applicable To Nursing Homes

Of even greater importance than how to pay for long term care is the issue of quality care. Jonathan Rosenfeld is an Illinois attorney whose firm specializes in the protection of nursing home residents. He has generously provided us with an excellent review of nursing home residents' rights and the various agencies and resources available to protect them. -Editor
Nursing homes are under strict laws that govern resident’s rights to receive not only proper medical care and treatment, but to ensure privacy, independence and respect for the resident. Although there are Federal laws that are applicable to long-term care as well, each state also has its own laws and regulations. It is important for patients and their families to understand and know these laws and the rights to which they are entitled.

State Agencies

Although each state may be different, many have specific agencies that handle overlooking the elderly and disabled within their state. Many will be part of the states Department of Health. Each state also has an Ombudsman program, which is mandated by the Federal government.
  • Ombudsman programs. The Federal Older Americans Act mandates that each state have an Ombudsman program dedicated to protecting persons in long-term care facilities. These regional offices work with residents and their families to support them by providing them with patient rights, resolving complaints and advocating for improved care.
  • Elder care. Within the state system, there are departments that handle elder care, often called “Department on Aging” or something similar. These agencies handle all of types of elder services, such as community programs and home care assistance.
  • Department Of Health. Most nursing homes will be regulated by their states health department and will have regular inspections. Each state will have specific regulations and laws that these facilities must meet or receive fines, penalties and even closure.

Know Your Legal Rights

When a person is in need of a nursing home, it usually is due to their need for daily care. Although this does mean giving up some independence so that the person can be cared for, it does not mean they give up their rights as an independent person. If a loved one needs to be in a nursing home, families should know what laws their state has and what is expected as a level of care. Some basic rights that are usually covered:
  • Financial freedom. The patient has the right to handle their own finances or choose someone to handle them for them.
  • Medical decisions. Patients have a right to be informed about their medical care and to decline treatments and medications.
  • Proper care. Each patient deserves proper care and to be protected from abuse or neglect.
Although no one wants to think that a home that is caring for a loved one is violating any of the patients rights or even laws, it is best to know what is expected of these facilities. By understanding the minimum requirements, families will be able to spot deficiencies in their loved ones care or even other problems in the facility if they happen and get them resolved before they result in an injury to the nursing home patient.