What Are Resident Rights in a Nursing Home?

Posted on February 28, 2024

Residents in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, are granted rights under Illinois law. If you have a relative, friend, or loved one in a nursing home, it’s critical to understand residents’ rights in nursing homes so you can ensure his or her rights are protected.

Resident rights nursing home.

Nursing Home Regulations in Illinois

The Illinois Department of Public Health is responsible for inspecting, licensing, and regulating nursing homes in Chicago and the rest of the state. Every year, it conducts more than 10,000 inspections and complaint investigations. There are around 1,200 long-term care facilities in Illinois, all of them licensed and regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health, as well as several other state and federal agencies.

The Illinois Department of Public Health maintains a hotline for receiving and registering complaints made regarding the treatment of residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

In addition, the Illinois Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is an advocacy program operated by trained ombudsmen to ensure residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are provided their rights. These ombudsmen visit nursing homes and monitor the quality of treatment, looking out for abuse.

Key Resident Rights in a Nursing Home Setting

Nursing home residents are vulnerable, and their rights are often violated. Residents may be fearful or unable to speak up, or they may simply be unaware that they have rights. That’s why, as a relative or guardian, it’s important to understand these rights and be on the lookout for violations.

The rights guaranteed to nursing home residents include:

The Right to Be Free From Abuse and Neglect

Every resident has the right to be free from abuse and neglect in nursing homes.

There are all kinds of abuse that occur in nursing homes. They include:

  • Physical abuse, such as hitting or pinching
  • Verbal abuse and harassment
  • Emotional abuse, such as forceful isolation
  • Financial abuse, such as draining the resident’s bank accounts
  • Sexual abuse or harassment
  • Medical abuse, such as preventing a patient from accessing the medications he or she needs

Residents must not be restrained. That goes not just for physical restraints, but chemical restraints as well, which can include drugging a patient.

In fact, medications that change a patient’s mood are only allowed to be administered with the patient’s permission. If psychotropic medications (which change the patient’s mental state) are administered without first receiving the patient’s permission, it is a violation of his or her rights.

Neglect may also cause residents harm. Such mistreatment occurs when staff purposely or unintentionally fail to provide adequate care, and consequently, the resident suffers a serious injury or death.

Right to Receive Appropriate Care and Treatment

Abuse can take the form of consciously leaving a bedridden or wheelchair-bound patient in his or her bed and not helping them shower, bathe, or use the washroom.

Further, nursing homes should remove obstacles that may cause a resident to fall and hurt themselves. The principles of fall safety at home and work apply; for example, objects should not be strewn on the ground.

In some cases, lack of care could be categorized as neglect. An understaffed nursing home may lead to patients not receiving the care they need, even if there is no malicious intent on the part of a nurse. A nursing home that did not invest in proper equipment or medications may lead to the same outcome. In either case, the patient’s rights were violated.

Nursing home facilities are not only required to provide proper care, but they must also provide a clean and comfortable environment for their residents. Furthermore, residents have the right to participate in their own care.

Residents can request and refuse treatment and choose their doctors. They have a right to see the care plan assigned to them and learn which medications are administered.

Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

Nursing care staff members are required to knock on a resident’s door before entering. They can’t just walk in at any time. Just because someone is living in a nursing home doesn’t mean they lose access to privacy. However, the right to privacy rule isn’t always honored, unfortunately.

Residents have the right to have a visitor (as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of other residents) and to tell any visitor to leave their room. They may make phone calls in private, without anyone listening in. Residents have the right to receive private mail.

Medical records are also confidential. Unless a patient is transferred to another nursing home or sent to the hospital, nursing home staff may not share his or her medical records with a third party without authorization.

Right to Have Personal Belongings and Manage Personal Finances

Similarly, nursing home residents have the right to own personal belongings and manage their finances, just like any private citizen.

If a resident has valuables, the nursing care facility must take all steps possible to protect them, and it must provide a place to safeguard them. The resident should be able to access this place with ease on any day.

Residents can keep the property and valuables they owned before moving to the nursing home. They can own their own clothing, and do not have to wear clothes provided to them by the facility.

Nursing home residents have the right to manage their own finances. While they may request that the nursing home manage their finances for them, a nursing home may not force a resident to do so; that is financial abuse. Nor may a nursing home force a resident to allow it to be his or her legal Social Security representative payee.

If a nursing home resident does request that the facility manage his or her finances, the home must provide an itemized statement every three months of all expenses paid with his or her finances.

The resident can also request to see a record of his or her finances at any time. The nursing home can not simply spend money without the resident’s permission.

In addition, if the resident has over $100 ($50 if the resident’s stay in the home is paid for by Medicaid), the nursing home must put that money in an account that earns interest if managing the patient’s finances.

When a resident is paying for his or her medical treatment, a contract detailing the services provided, and their costs, must be provided. If the resident is relying on Medicare or Medicaid to pay for treatment, the nursing home must assist by providing information on how to apply for those programs.

If Medicaid is only paying for certain treatments, the nursing home must provide a list of treatments Medicaid is paying for, and it can not obligate the patient to pay for those treatments.

What Are Challenges in Protecting Resident Rights in Illinois?

There are many challenges in protecting resident rights in nursing homes in Illinois. Many nursing home residents feel like they do not have a voice, and abuse often goes undetected and unreported.

While residents have the right to file a complaint if they are neglected, nursing homes sometimes illegally threaten or harass them to deter such complaints. Unprofessional staff members may try to punish residents by refusing care or treatment, which is abuse and a serious violation of the law.

Since nursing home residents are in a vulnerable state, as they rely on the facility to provide their everyday care, outside intervention is sometimes necessary.

When Should You Hire an Attorney?

Personal injury attorneys can assist in cases in which a resident was injured in a nursing home.

You should also call an attorney if you suspect neglect or any other type of abuse. Signs of physical abuse may include bruises or scratches. One possible sign of mental abuse is a sudden withdrawal into oneself and refusing to attend social events. A sign of medical abuse or neglect may include a sudden worsening of the patient’s symptoms.

Further, contact an attorney if you suspect a right was violated. For example, residents in nursing care facilities maintain the right to practice any religion and the right to vote for any political candidate, just like any private citizen.

An attorney can help not only in cases regarding resident abuse, but also in nurse or caregiver abuse. When a patient attacks a nurse, the nurse may hold the nursing home liable. An attorney can help a nurse recover compensation for his or her injuries on the job.

Rights exist for nursing home residents. An attorney can ensure your loved one’s resident rights in a nursing home are upheld and can sue for compensation if any of them were violated.

author-bio-image author-bio-image
Mark A. DePaolo

Mark A. DePaolo is the founding partner of DePaolo & Zadeikis Attorneys at Law, a personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm based out of Chicago, Illinois. Mark is a past President of the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Association, has been recognized as one of the best workers’ compensation lawyers in the field, and was selected as an Illinois Super Lawyer seven years in a row. His client focused approach and wealth of experience set Mr. DePaolo apart from many other attorneys who handle workers’ compensation law.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active

Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois

author-bio-image author-bio-image
Mark A. DePaolo

Mark A. DePaolo is the founding partner of DePaolo & Zadeikis Attorneys at Law, a personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm based out of Chicago, Illinois. Mark is a past President of the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Association, has been recognized as one of the best workers’ compensation lawyers in the field, and was selected as an Illinois Super Lawyer seven years in a row. His client focused approach and wealth of experience set Mr. DePaolo apart from many other attorneys who handle workers’ compensation law.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active

Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois