Nursing Home Rights
Do I have any rights to care and comfort in a nursing home?
Absolutely. When you enter the nursing home you will be asked to sign an admission agreement, which is an important document that helps define the legal relationship between you and the home. Do not sign the document until you have read it thoroughly and understand its import. Also, upon entering the nursing home you will receive a written statement from the home detailing your rights as a resident of a Texas nursing home and the home’s rules and polices. If you do not understand these rules and rights or you are too ill at the time of entry to comprehend their import, the home must provide these rules and policies to your next of kin or the person of agency that is responsible for your care. Each resident of a Texas nursing home must acknowledge in writing receipt of these rules and policies and the fact that he or she understands their import. If these rules and policies are ever changed, the home must notify you of the changes.
As a resident of a Texas nursing home you have the right to appropriate care, treatment, and services without prejudice of any kind. The law protects you from any type of mental or physical abuse. No one may restrain you with physical devices or drugs unless your physician has authorized such restraint for a specific period of time or restraints are necessary to protect you or others in an emergency.
You further have the right to receive adequate medical care from the home that will allow you attain or maintain your highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being, as well as meals that meet nutritional standards. The home is required to develop a plan for each resident that sets out how the home will meet the individual’s needs and requirements. Nursing homes in Texas are required to stay clean and livable. The home should also remain in a safe condition, i.e., floors should not have slick finish and laundry carts should not block hallways. You cannot be forced to perform work on behalf of the nursing home. However, you are more than welcome to perform personal housekeeping tasks if you so chose.
Do I have any rights to association as a resident of a nursing home?
Yes. You have the absolute right to see visitors and for them to see you. The home can have policies that determine the time, place, and manner for visitations. However, the home cannot deny you visitation with anyone. You also have the right to associate with people and groups both inside and outside of the home. The only manner in which your association rights may be limited is if your physician places a written visiting restriction order in your medical records after determining such visitations would be harmful to your health.
You have the right to participate in a religion by attending religious services or seeing your pastor or clergyman. You have the right to vote unless you are under a legal guardianship. If you cannot get to the polls, the home must assist you in providing transportation. You also have the right to form councils to discuss issues, complaints, and conditions of the home. These councils can relay complaints to the home’s administration or to the Texas Department of Health or the Texas Department of Aging. A meeting place must be provided by the home for such meetings.
Do I have the right to privacy as a nursing home resident?
Yes. You have the right to personal privacy, private communication, and confidentiality in the nursing home. These privacy rights include but are not limited to the following:
- right to privacy during medical examinations, treatments, consultations or case discussions;
- right to private visits with your spouse (husband and wife have the right to live in one room unless a physician advises against it);
- right to privacy as to your mail;
- right to a telephone that is not a pay phone provided by the home (or you can put your own phone in if desired);
- right to confidentiality concerning your medical records (and any medical information overheard by a nursing home employee must be kept confidential); and
- right to keep and use your own personal property and clothing, although the home may limit the number of items a resident can keep for health and safety reasons. (The home must prepare a list of your personal items once you enter the home.)
Can the nursing home transfer me to another home?
Generally speaking, no. There are certain situations, however, which will lend themselves to such a transfer. They include:
- Your physician says a transfer is necessary for your health and safety or that of others.
- The home closes or no longer participates in the program that pays for your care (i.e., Medicare/Medicaid).
- Your fees have not been paid (expect as prohibited by federal law); or
- A Medicare or Medicaid review decides you no longer require the type of care the homes provides. If you are to be transferred based on nonpayment of services, the home must give you and your family 30 days advance notice. If the transfer is based on some other reason, the home must provide as many days advance notice as is practicable, but no fewer than 5 days is allowed. You do have the right to appeal the transfer or discharge. To do this, you should contact either an attorney or the local Long Term Care Ombudsman immediately upon receiving the notice of transfer or discharge. If one resident spouse is to be transferred to another facility, the home must inform the other resident spouse of his or her right to be transferred to the same facility. This spouse must give the home a written request for transfer.
What do I need to know about nursing home charges?
Once you enter a nursing home, you and any other persons who will pay for your care must receive a list of all the services provided by the home. The list must include which services are part of the basic rate and which services will incur an additional charge. This list must include charges for services not covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or other forms of health insurance. You and/or the persons paying for your care must receive a bill from the home at least once a month. You must be advised of any rate changes 30 days before the time in which they become effective.
Do I have the right to make a complaint against a nursing home?
Absolutely. You may complain to anyone without reprisal under the law. You also have the right to examine, upon reasonable request, the results of the most recent survey of the facility and their plan of correction.
How do I make a complaint against a nursing home for violation of my rights?
You can contact the Texas Department of Health or the Texas Department of Aging. Both agencies will investigate any complaint made. The Department of Health’s toll-free number for nursing home complaints is 1-800-458-9858. The Texas Department of Aging sponsors 28 local area agencies on aging throughout Texas, each having at least one ombudsman on site. The toll-free number for the Texas Department of Aging’s State Ombudsman is 1-800-252-2412.