Nursing home residents have important rights under both federal and state law. Nursing homes laws require that they educate their residents on their rights and to assist them in exercising them. In the case that a resident is unable to understand or execute their rights, the decision-making ability for the resident is transferred to whomever the law deems the most suitable individual to make decisions for the resident.

If a nursing home fails to comply with federal resident rights, they can lose their Medicare or Medicaid certification and funding. As well, federal and/or state surveyors can sanction facilities and homes that are not in compliance with federal rules and regulations.

The following is a summary of rights as outlined in the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law that was part of the 1987 Social Security Act. This law was enacted in order to "promote and protect the rights of each resident."

Accommodation of Needs

  • Nursing home residents have the right to receive reasonable accommodations for their needs and preferences.
  • Residents should always be notified of room changes or roommate changes.
  • Residents can make choices about facility factors that are of importance to them.


  • Facilities must provide social activities that reflect the interests of the nursing home residents.

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Access and Visitation Rights
  • Residents may receive or deny visitors.
  • Nursing home facilities must allow visitation rights with any state or federal agency that provides health, social, or legal services.

Admission Policy

  • No facility may require a third party guarantee of payment or accept any gifts as a condition of residence staying there. They may accept contributions to their facility only if they do not influence admission or continued stay.
  • Nursing home facilities may not require residents to waive their right to receive or apply for Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
  • Facility may charge those residents who are Medicaid-eligible for requested services or items.


  • Individual residents will be treated with dignity and respect by the facility and their staff.

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Exercise of Rights
  • Nursing home residents have the freedom to exercise their rights as residents, and as a citizen of the United States without fear of discrimination, restraint, interference, coercion or reprisal.
  • If an individual is unable to act on their own behalf, those rights can be exercised by whoever is appointed under state law to act on their behalf.

Equal Access to Quality Care

  • Facilities must use identical policies when transferring and discharging residents.
  • When written notice is provided at time of admission, the nursing home facility may determine the charges for a non-Medicaid resident.


  • Facilities must provide an environment that is safe, clean, comfortable, and as close to a normal home as is reasonable.
  • Facilities must provide housekeeping and maintenance services.
  • Residences will be provided with clean, adequate baths and bed linens.
  • Residences will be provided with reasonable and private closet space.
  • Facilities must provide residences with adequate and comfortable lighting and sound levels.
  • Facilities will provide comfortable and safe temperature levels.

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Freedom of Choice

  • Residents may choose their own physician(s).
  • Residents may participate in their own care and treatment.


  • Grievances may be voiced without fear of discrimination or reprisal. The resolution of these grievances will be made promptly.
  • Residents shall have access to survey results and a plan of correction. These will be posted in a readily accessible place.
  • Residents may contact client advocate agencies and receive information from them.

Quality of Life

  • Facilities must provide a level of care that enhances the quality of life.

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  • Facilities will promptly send and receive resident mail unopened. Residents will have access to writing materials and supplies.

Married Couples

  • Married couples may share a room.

Notice of Bed-Hold Policy

  • Family members and residents are to receive written notice of state and facility bed-hold policies before and at the time of a transfer.

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Notice of Rights and Services
  • Facilities will inform residents in both written and oral form of all of their rights, the applicable rules, and all regulations regarding conduct and responsibilities.
  • Residence may inspect and purchase duplicate copies of their health records.
  • Facilities are obligated to keep residents up-to-date and informed as to their state of health.
  • Residents maintain the right to refuse medical treatment, as well as the right to refuse experimental treatment(s).
  • Residents will be notified of their Medicare and Medicaid benefits. This will be accessible in an appropriate location.
  • A facility must inform residents of applicable services and charges.
  • Facilities will inform its residents how to protect personal funds.
  • Facility inform those who live there of any changes in their condition or any decisions of transfer or discharge. Facilities must notify a resident's physician and/or interested family member.
  • The facility will notify their residents and interested family members of room or roommate changes.
  • Residents may refuse room changes that are requestedby the facility.
  • A facility must notify its residents or certain family members of any changes in the rights provided.

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Participation in Resident Groups

  • Residents may participate in any groups that do not violate any laws.
  • Facilities need to provide appropriate spaces for groups and meetings.
  • If invited by a group or meeting, staff and others may attend the meeting.
  • A nursing home facility will adequately address any concerns of a group.

Participation in Other Activities

  • Residents can participate in any activities as long as they do not violate the rights of other residents.

Protection of Funds

  • Residents may handle their own financial dealings.
  • Residents do not have to deposit their own monies to the facilities.
  • Any funds that are deposited to the facility will be handled with the best interests of the depositor.
  • Deposited funds with the facility will be protected by a security bond.
  • Deposited funds will not be intermixed with the funds of the facility.
  • Upon request, the facility must provide a quarterly, personalized financial report.
  • Remaining assets of an estate will be handled as the resident sees fit.

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Personal Property

  • Personal property is to be retained and used by the resident as they wish as long as space is available.


  • Facilities are not allowed to use physical restraints, nor are they allowed to use psychoactive drugs, on residence for either discipline or as a simple convenience. These can only be used if they are for the purpose of treating legitimate medical purposes.
Right of Privacy
Residents have the right of privacy of personal and health records.

Privacy includes:
  • Personal care
  • Medical treatments
  • Telephone use
  • Visits
  • Personal Correspondence
  • Family or group meetings
    Residents have the right to refuse or release their own records if transferred or any other applicable reason

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Self-Administered Drugs

  • Medicinal drugs may be self-administered as long as they are deemed safe by the interdisciplinary team.

Social Services

  • Facilities must provide those social services that protect or bolster resident's well being.

Staff Treatment

  • Facilities must be equipped to protect its residents fromstaff abuse, neglect, and theft.
  • If staff abuse or neglect is suspected or alleged, facilities must investigate the incident and report it to the proper personnel.

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  • Residents must be allowed to use the telephone in private.

Transfer and Discharge
Transfers and discharges can only made if the facility is unable to:

  • Meet the specific needs of a resident
  • Protect the safety of a resident
    In addition, transfers and discharges can only be made if the resident:
  • No longer needs the services
  • Is unable to make the proper payments
    Residents must be notified of transfers or discharges at least 30 days before they are to occur. The only exceptions are in cases of health or safety concerns.
    Facilities will provide residents with safe transfers or a discharge.


  • Residents may refuse to perform services for the facility.
  • Any services provided by a resident must be recorded in detail, including the type of work done and the compensation paid.

If the safety and health of your loved one is in jeopardy, and you feel that they have suffered some form of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact us to speak with an attorney.













Resident Rights


Equal Access


Married Couples

Rights and Services

Protection of Funds


Staff Treatment



Elder Abuse in the News

Organizations to Assist in Elder Abuse Cases

Information on Rules, Nursing Homes, etc.

Community Based Sites

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