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Understanding your rights in a skilled nursing home

Nursing homes across the U.S. are charged with the care of the elderly and those individuals with physical and mental disabilities. These are the most vulnerable members of our society. Though many nursing homes provide exceptional care to their residents, there are times when stories of neglect and abuse surface, making many of us wonder what rights nursing home residents and their families have, and what can be done to prevent such incidents of nursing home neglect?

It is very important for families and residents of skilled nursing home facilities particularly to understand that under both federal and state law they have certain rights and protections. These include being treated by the nursing home staff with respect and dignity; not being discriminated against based on race, gender, color, age, national origin, religion or disability; being informed in writing about all the service and fees the nursing home offers; right to be informed about one's medical care and be a part of one's medical care; having a right to privacy and to keep and use personal belongings as long as they do not create a safety and health risk for the resident; having a right to have visitors; and to file a complaint against the facility or a caregiver.

Most importantly, however, nursing home residents have a right to be free from abuse and neglect, and to be free from restraints. Nursing home residents can suffer verbal, financial, physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The resident or a family member can file a complaint against the facility.

When it comes to restraint, these can be manual physical and mechanical devices or can also be chemical restraints. Physical restraints restrict movement and chemical ones can change a person's personality. If there is not a medical reason to physically or chemically restrain a resident, it is against the law to do so. For both residents and families alike, if concerns and questions about your rights arise, it may be helpful to speak with an attorney about one's rights to determine if any were violated.

Source: Medicare.gov, "What are your rights in a skilled nursing facility?", accessed Aug. 31, 2015

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