Resident Rights in Nursing Homes

Referred to as “Resident Rights’ or “Residents’ Bill of Rights,’ nursing home residents are entitled to certain protections, guarantees, privileges, securities, and safeguards, as set forth by law. In Illinois, state law protects the residents of long-term care facilities under the Nursing Home Care Act (NHCA). Protection is also provided under federal law, pursuant to the Nursing Home Care Reform Act (NHCRA). Essentially these two bodies of law work together, in that facilities must, at minimum, adhere to federal regulations, but must also comply with any additional regulations applicable under Illinois law.

Pursuant to section 210 ILCS 45/2-101 of the Illinois NHCA:

“No resident shall be deprived of any rights, benefits, or privileges guaranteed by law, the Constitution of the State of Illinois, or the Constitution of the United States solely on account of his status as a resident of a [long-term care] facility.”

As the resident of an Illinois nursing home facility that provides long-term care, you have numerous rights—perhaps more than you are even aware of. To explicitly spell out each and every specific right set forth under state and federal law would be both unnecessary and tedious to read. The objectives of both are the same—protecting the medical, physical, social, mental, psychological, and financial well-being of residents—and ensuring their right to privacy, confidentiality, equality, self-determination, dignity, and respect. Provided as a general overview of rights pursuant to NHCA and NHCRA, the residents of nursing homes in Illinois are entitled to:

  • Maintain their rights as a U.S. citizen (right to vote, freedom of religion and speech)
  • Not be discriminated against
  • Manage their own financial affairs
  • Know charges for services provided, and costs for supplemental services
  • Receive notification regarding application & eligibility to Medicare/Medicaid, as well as rules regarding spousal impoverishment
  • Use their own doctor (if covered under private health insurance or at own expense)
  • Access and review medical records
  • Participate in planning their care
  • Be informed regarding medical diagnoses, prognosis, and course of treatment
  • Remain free from abuse or neglect
  • Refuse treatment or medication
  • Be free from physical or chemical restraints, unless necessary to prevent harm to resident or others
  • Communicate with others, including mail, phone calls and visitation
  • Wear their own clothing; have their own personal belongings
  • Report complaints without fear of retaliation
  • Reassurance that living wills be honored (i.e. ‘Do not Resuscitate Orders’)

During the admissions process, the facility is required by law to provide the resident (or the person responsible for the resident’s care) with written notice of the rights and services they are entitled to. The resident or other responsible party must acknowledge that they have been provided with a copy of their rights, and that they understand them as well. This acknowledgement is usually incorporated within the contract between the nursing home and resident.

In addition, contractual agreements may provide additional rights beyond those granted under state and federal law—and/or—provide further clarification regarding specific rights and services—or—set forth a resident’s rights in a facility that falls outside the purview of the NHCA or the NHCRA. Because nursing home contracts can be complex, you are encouraged to have any agreements with the facility reviewed by a legal professional.

When a nursing fails to abide by their duties and obligations set forth by state law, federal law, and/or by contractual agreement, there are many things you can do to enforce the resident’s rights. If the issue is relatively minor, and no harm to the resident has occurred, try to resolve the problem by speaking with the nursing home staff or caregivers, and when necessary higher-level facility personnel, such as a manger, director, supervisor, or administrator.

If you are unable to reach resolution by working with the facility directly, or if the issue involves a more serious violation of the resident’s rights, you may need to contact the Ombudsman agency assigned to the region/county that the nursing home is located in, or another entity authorized to accept complaints. For more information on reporting issues related to the care of a resident to a long-term care facility, visit Illinois Department on Aging.

When a nursing home violates a resident’s rights in a manner that causes injury or harm to a resident, you may want to consider additional remedial options, such as seeking compensation for damages sustained as a result of the facility’s unlawful or negligent actions (or omissions).

The Chicago Accident & Injury Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer P.C. have decades of experience representing the victims of nursing home negligence, and invite you to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have over a resident’s rights. Call us at 773-516-4100, or use the online form provided below, to discuss your matter with a nursing home attorney at no cost or obligation.

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