What federal statutes and regulations protect nursing home patients from abuse?

What federal statutes and regulations protect nursing home patients from abuse?


Answers (1)

The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 requires a nursing home to care for its residents in a way that promotes their quality of life (42 USC §1395i–3).  To participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, nursing homes must be in compliance with the federal requirements for long term care facilities as prescribed in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (42 CFR Part 483).

The rights of a nursing home resident under federal law include freedom to voice grievances without retaliation, including filing complaints with the state nursing home certification authority; management of one’s own finances; association with individuals of one’s own choice; participation in resident groups in the facility, and in social, religious, and community activities; confidential handling of personal and medical records, and access to these records; and advance notice of transfer or discharge, and protection against unfair eviction.  An individualized personal care plan for each nursing home resident must be prepared by a doctor and the nursing home staff.   Additionally, each resident has the right to “receive services with reasonable accommodation of individual needs and preferences” (42 CFR §483.15(e)).

The Federal agency responsible for the enforcement of the nursing home controls  is the Health Care Financing Administrationhttp://www.hcfa.org/ (HCFA) of the Department of Health and Human Services.   If you believe a long-term care facility is violating a patient’s federal or state rights in any way, you should immediately inform the administrator of the facility and contact your state’s long-term ombudsman program and/or state survey agency (and possibly HCFA).  Federal and state laws require the nursing home itself and government regulators to investigate any alleged abuse, and state survey agencies have the power to issue sanctions against facilities with deficient practices.  An experienced elder law attorney can help you navigate the multi-agency complaint procedures.  If the abused senior citizen is a family member, your attorney can also determine if your loved one has state or federal civil causes of action against the facility.

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