An important piece of federal legislation, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, provides safeguards and protections to Utah residents living in nursing homes or in assisted living facilities. If you have a family member in a nursing home or are in one yourself, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the protections this Act provides against abuse and negligence. The law, as written, places strong emphasis on self-determination as well as human dignity. It requires that nursing homes and assisted living facilities protect the rights of each of their residents as a prerequisite to them receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding or reimbursement.
Residents of Utah’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the following rights:
Right to be Informed. Residents have the right to be fully informed, of services and their charges; the rules and regulations of the nursing home; contact information for the State Ombudsman, State licensure office, and other advocacy groups; and state survey reports of the nursing home along with the home’s plans for corrections. Residents have the right to be communicated to daily in their language and provided assistance for sensory impairments.
Right of Self-Determination. Residents have the right to participate in their own care, which includes both receiving adequate and appropriate care and also the right to refuse that care. They have the right to be involved in the planning of their care, should be informed of any changes in treatment or condition, and the right to review their medical records.
Right to Choose. Residents have the right to make independent choices. This includes making independent decisions on clothing and spending free time, choosing their own activities inside and outside the nursing home, participating in a resident council, and selecting their own physician. The nursing home must make reasonable accommodations of a resident’s needs and preferences.
Right to Privacy. Residents have the right to privacy and confidentiality, including private and unrestricted communication with persons of their choice, private treatment and care of personal needs, and confidentiality regarding medical, personal, and financial affairs.
Right to Dignity. Residents have the right to dignity, respect, and freedom. Residents have the right to be treated with consideration, respect and dignity, to be free from abuse, both mental and physical, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints. Residents have the right to self-determination.
Right to Managed Affairs. Residents have the right to security of possessions. This includes managing their own financial affairs and not being charged for services covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Residents have the right to file a complaint if the nursing home is managing their financial affairs in an abusive, neglectful, or inappropriate way.
Right to Reasonable Transfer/Discharge. Residents have rights during transfers and discharges, including the right to a 30-day notice and a safe transfer or discharge with sufficient preparation by the nursing home. Residents also have a right to remain in the nursing facility unless the transfer or discharge is deemed necessary to meet the resident’s welfare, required to protect other residents and staff, or a facility charge has not been provided after reasonable notice.
Right to Lodge Complaints. Residents have the right to complain without fear of reprisal and the right to prompt efforts by the nursing home to resolve grievances.
Right to Visits. A resident has the right to visits. A resident has the right to visits from their personal physician, representatives from the health department and ombudsman programs, and their relatives. Residents also have the right to reasonable visits by organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services.
Many situations where nursing home abuse occurs in Utah occur because the resident’s right to dignity is not honored. For example, in situations where residents are provided no assistance with their bathroom needs and are left to languish in their urine and feces, this is a violation of their right to dignity. Residents who develop bed sores because they are not properly attended to also had their right to dignity violated. Indeed, the violation of this important right touches almost all areas where nursing home abuse in Utah has occurred. To the fact finder hearing an abuse claim, a violation of the right to dignity can be even more offensive than the right to receive proper medical attention.
Ron Kramer is a personal injury attorney who handles nursing home abuse cases, with offices in Utah, Salt Lake and Davis counties.
Published by: Ron Kramer