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What Are a Nursing Home Resident’s Rights?

Nursing home residents have rights that nursing homes and their staff must honor. The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act and the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act list these rights for nursing home residents in Illinois. 

Understanding the rights of nursing home residents can help determine if abuse or neglect has occurred and subsequently help build a case against nursing homes and employees for wrongdoing.

How Does the Patient Bill of Rights Work in Illinois?

In addition to a federal act protecting residents’ rights, long term care facilities in Illinois must adhere to the state’s separate bill of rights. This bill of rights takes the form of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, which lists all the specific rights that nursing home residents have in the state.

The Illinois bill of rights aims to protect nursing home residents from forms of abuse and neglect that often occur in nursing homes. Historically, nursing homes getting the green light to abuse the elderly exploited the lack of disclosed resident rights. However, the rights provided under state and federal laws have helped prevent this abuse.

Understanding the Rights of Illinois Nursing Home Residents

The following are the rights provided to residents by the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act:

The Right to Personal Property

Nursing home residents must be able to keep their property, including personal belongings and articles of clothing. One limitation to this right is the restriction of clothing based on medical needs, which nursing homes could issue. In addition to allowing residents to hold onto their property, nursing homes must provide storage for the residents’ belongings.

The Right to See Visitors

Nursing home residents also have the right to see visitors at the nursing home, unless there are valid medical reasons to prevent visitation. 

The Right to Financial Control

Residents must have control over their finances during their stay at a nursing home, and the facility must ensure that the funds benefit the resident. The nursing home must also provide residents with quarterly statements upon request, and funds must gain interest if they’re over $100.

The Right to Select Treatment Options

Residents also have the right to choose their care providers and services. They have the right to access all medical records. Residents also have rights to hold private meetings with their care provider. The patient must be able to pay for these services and receive treatment that a qualified medical professional orders.

The Right to Be Discharged

Residents can request a discharge from the nursing home, but they should be able to stay somewhere temporarily until they’re able to leave the facility.

The Right to Regular Mental Health Screenings

Additionally, patients have the right to mental health screenings, which should occur once after staying at the facility for 90 days, followed by another screening after six months, and then one re-screening every year.

The Right to Exercise Religious Beliefs

Residents should be able to exercise their religious beliefs while staying at a nursing home, and the nursing home should allow for this by enabling residents to attend requested religious services.

The Right to Maintain Private Communications

Nursing home residents have the right to keep all forms of communication private. They may wish to communicate with friends or family using various methods of communication, including phone calls and text messages.

The Right to Consult Lawyers and Social Workers

Residents are able to seek counsel from and maintain communications with attorneys. They’re also able to communicate with social workers for assistance.

The Right to Control Medication and Other Drug Intake

Residents must provide consent to nursing homes before staff administer any psychotropic drugs unless medically necessary, and staff must also avoid giving prolonged or excessive doses unless they have a valid medical reason to do so.

The Right to Prevent Physical or Chemical Restraint

Unless staff have explicit medical reasons for doing so, they must not restrain nursing home residents using drugs or physical restraints.

The Right to Complain

If nursing home residents have any issues with their treatment or the behavior of staff while staying at a nursing home, they have the right to file a complaint with the nursing home or other parties about these issues.

The Right to End-of-Life Care

Nursing home residents have the ability to issue “do not resuscitate” orders and determine other aspects of end-of-life care. 

In addition to the rights provided by Illinois laws, nursing home residents have the following rights under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA):

  • The right to avoid mistreatment, abuse, and neglect
  • The right to dignified treatment
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to avoid physical restraints
  • The right to freely communicate with others
  • The right to participate in family and resident groups

These and other rights under the federal government supplement state rights to protect nursing home residents.

State Regulations Nursing Homes Must Follow

There are state regulations to prevent abuse in place. The state regulations apply to licensing and ownership, medical care, employee background checks, record keeping, facility maintenance and upkeep, the use of restraints, vaccinations, and many other aspects of resident care.

Failure to adhere to these regulations will result in repercussions under the state or federal government, which helps keep nursing homes and their employees in line. 

How to Protect Nursing Home Residents

While the NHRA and Illinois Nursing Home Care Act both help to ensure nursing homes and their staff remain accountable for instances of abuse or neglect, residents’ loved ones can also take certain steps to protect nursing home residents from mistreatment.

The following are specific tips on protecting loved ones before and during their stay in a nursing home:

Conduct Research into the Facility

Before selecting a nursing home for a loved one, be sure to research the facility and learn about its history. Find out if there are any recorded instances of abuse or neglect, and see if you can find reviews from other families of residents. The nursing home facility may also have a legal record involving multiple lawsuits.

Visit the Facility Regularly

Once you’ve chosen a nursing home and your loved one begins staying at the location, inspect the premises occasionally when visiting. Check to see if there are any elements of the facility that look to be unsafe or otherwise suffering from poor maintenance. Look for any signs of mistreatment based on questionable staff behavior or physical signs of abuse, such as bedsores or bruising.

Ask About the Experiences of Others

Apart from looking online for reviews or testimonials, ask current nursing home residents or their families about any mistreatment they’ve experienced or suspect.

Provide Regular Care if Possible

You or another member of the resident’s family can also further prevent abuse or neglect by regularly providing care for the resident. If you or another family member has the time, try to provide regular care, as this is likely to deter potentially abusive or negligent staff from mistreating the resident. At the same time, you’ll be able to actively ensure the resident receives proper care.

Consult an Attorney if You Suspect Mistreatment

If you discover or suspect any forms of abuse or neglect that cause harm to your loved one while he or she stays in a nursing home, don’t hesitate to reach out to a nursing home negligence and abuse lawyer. A lawyer with experience representing nursing home residents and their loved ones may be able to review the details of your observations or suspicions and investigate potential abuse or negligence. 

If the attorney discovers mistreatment is taking place and causing harm, you may be able to recover compensation from the liable nursing home and its employees. The attorney can explain the specific rights your loved one has and help you seek compensation for various types of damages.

The damages in these types of cases could include economic and non-economic damages, ranging from medical bills and other financial expenses to pain and suffering experienced because of abuse or neglect. Depending on the extent of the mistreatment, the court may also award punitive damages to punish liable nursing homes and deter similarly negligent or abusive behavior in the future.

Preserving Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

The implementation of the NHRA and Illinois Nursing Home Care Act has helped to protect the rights of nursing home residents in Illinois. These rights and regulations help prevent widespread abuse and neglect, giving nursing home residents the right to control their care and get the assistance they need. They also regulate nursing homes and the care they provide to keep their services compliant with the requirements in place.

By taking the right steps and meeting with an attorney when necessary, you can ensure nursing home residents remain protected and prevent nursing homes from violating residents’ rights. 

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association – 1974-Present
Lake County Bar Association
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Lake County Bar Association Civil Trial and Appeals Committee
Federal Bar Association – Northern District of Illinois
Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States – May 28, 1991
Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association – 1974-Present
Lake County Bar Association
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
Lake County Bar Association Civil Trial and Appeals Committee
Federal Bar Association – Northern District of Illinois
Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States – May 28, 1991

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