Nursing Home Patient Rights: Know the Facts
Nursing home patients have rights in New Mexico. Depending on someone else for your care doesn’t eliminate those entitlements. Whether you (or a loved one) lives in a personal care home or a skilled nursing facility, you deserve access to quality medical and personal care services.
Accidents can and do happen in New Mexico aged care facilities. Deliberate negligence also has been uncovered in the state over the years. The best way to ensure you or a loved one doesn’t fall victim to abuse or neglect is to know your nursing home patient rights.
The Right to Choose Your Own Physician
You’re not required to use a physician to whom you aren’t comfortable entrusting your care. Some nursing homes and other aged care facilities provide residents with on-site medical personnel as part of their services. Just because they offer it doesn’t mean you have to use it.
Beyond the freedom to choose your own doctor, you also have the following rights regarding your medical care and well-being, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
- Complete information about your health status in clear language that makes sense to you.
- Full disclosure about your medical condition, prescriptions, and over-the counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements prescribed or recommended by a physician or other healthcare provider.
- Total access to your medical records and reports, and to make important decisions about the development of care plans and other medical treatment decisions.
The Right to be Free from Discrimination
You don’t abandon your Constitutionally protected rights when you decide to live in an aged care home. One of those protections is to be free from discrimination based on age, color, disability, national origin, race, or religion.
If you think nursing home staff are engaging in acts of discrimination, you have the option of filing a civil rights complaint. Contacting an ombudsman can get the process started. You also can reach out directly to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights to lodge your formal grievance.
Contacting a civil rights attorney or one skilled in aged care abuse cases is another option for filing a discrimination complaint. Your attorney can review the circumstances and help determine the best course of action to resolve the issue.
The Right to be Free from Restraints
Personal care homes and nursing homes can’t use physical restraints on you for discipline purposes or to make life easier for the staff. Side rails on beds and medications that encourage drowsiness both fall into this category.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 prohibits physical restraints for nursing home residents without their consent. Emergencies are the only exception to the rule. A total of 10 items appear in the act under the Residents’ Bill of Rights.
Aged care facilities that do not follow the guidelines in the act can face civil and criminal penalties and possibly lose their licenses to operate.
The Right to be Treated with Respect
Choosing to live in a personal care home or other aged care facility doesn’t mean you surrender your right to be treated with dignity and respect. You have control over when you go to bed at night and get up in the morning, what you eat during mealtime, and what activities you participate in throughout the day.
Nursing homes must provide you with the rules for their facility before you agree to live there. They also must give 30 days written notice any time they change an existing rule or add a new one.
The Right to Privacy
You don’t surrender your right to privacy because you choose to live in an aged care facility. It’s not a trade-off. What does privacy look like in a nursing home? Here is what you can expect.
- The access to private phone calls and visits without oversight from a staff member.
- The ability to send and receive postal mail and electronic communication (email) without oversight.
- The advance notice about roommate changes and other living arrangement alterations before they are made.
- The right to keep and use your personal belongings if it’s not interfering with the health or safety of others.
The Right to be Free from Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home abuse and neglect is a serious problem in the U.S. A 2020 study from the World Health Organization discovered that more than 64 percent of nursing home staff members admitted to committing some form of abuse or neglect. That’s a frightening statistic.
Abuse and neglect take many forms. There is physical and sexual abuse, but also psychological abuse. For instance, if a nursing home punishes you by isolating you from other residents, that’s a form of emotional abuse.
If you’re needs aren’t being met, or you are the victim of deliberate abuse or neglect, you can file a complaint with your long-term care ombudsman. Depending on the type of abuse, criminal charges may be warranted in addition to civil recourse.
The Right to File Complaints
You have a right to file a formal complaint to the staff of the nursing home, or any other authorized person, without fear of retaliation. From the quality of care you receive to a failure of staff to respect your privacy, there are many reasons you may want to lodge a grievance.
If you report your concerns to the proper authorities and do not get the response desired, it may be time to consult with an attorney skilled in handling nursing home complaints.