Nursing home patients


If you have ever been involved in the nursing home admission process (Bless you! Are you still in therapy over it?), then you know it involves answering a multitude of questions and signing a stack of paperwork. Become familiar with Nursing Home Patient Rights before completing the admission process.

What you may not know is that the nursing home is prohibited, by federal law, from requiring you to agree to, or disclose certain matters.

Here, then, is a brief discourse on some of the more commonly violated protections:

  1. Nursing homes cannot require the patient to waive his or her right to Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
  2. A nursing home cannot require the patient to disclose details about wealth or finances.
  3. The nursing home cannot request, or require, a third-party guarantee (be especially vigilant if the nursing home asks the person filling out the paperwork to sign as a “responsible party”, which is a code word for “guarantor”).
  4. This nursing home cannot require the patient to make a “charitable donation” as a condition of admission to the facility.
  5. Nursing homes cannot require the patient to waive the nursing home’s liability for loss of personal property.
  6. A patient who is admitted to the nursing homes gains more rights.  For example, all patients must be treated equally, regardless of their method of payment.  A patient on Medicaid must receive the same treatment as a patient who is private pay.

The nursing home has to provide each patient with a certain quality of life.  Memorize this and trot it out as needed: “the facility has to provide the patient with the necessary care and services for the patient to attain, and maintain, the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being, consistent with the patient’s comprehensive assessment and plan of care.”

The nursing home has to provide the patient with a certain quality of care.  The nursing home is required to create a comprehensive person-centered care plan for the patient that takes into account the patient ’s wishes.

Once admitted, the patient can be involuntarily discharged or transferred from a facility for only 6 acceptable reasons.  This prohibits the facility from kicking someone out in retaliation or refusing to give the patient a “reasonable accommodation”.

The acceptable reasons for discharge or transfer are:

  • The facility cannot meet the patient’s needs
  • The patient’s health has improved to the point when nursing-home level care is no longer required
  • The patient’s clinical or behavioral status is a danger to the safety of others
  • The patient is endangering the health of others
  • The patient has failed to pay his or her bill
  • The facility has ceased to operate

The facility is required to document the reasons for the transfer or discharge and to give the patient and his or her agent advance written notice – sometimes as much as 30 days.  This facility also has to give advance notice of the discharge location, go through an orientation and planning procedure, and state the patient’s appeal rights.  Some discharge notices also require a physician’s signature.

Bottom line:  the nursing home patient has rights.