What are the rights of residents of nursing homes?
Florida law offers residents of nursing homes certain rights which are guaranteed by law and protect those residents from unreasonable personal, civil and religious restraints. Contained in what has become more commonly referred to as the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights (Florida Statutes 400.022), the legislature has provided a framework for the protection of what is undoubtedly the most vulnerable class of our population-the sick and elderly. In part, the Bill protects nursing home residents from being forced to submit to medical and pharmacological treatment they don’t want, being able to send and receive uncensored mail and phone calls, unreasonable restrictions on receiving visitors, unreasonable restriction on the exercise of civil and religious liberties, the ability to present grievances without fear of reprisal, privacy, the ability to choose their own doctors and be kept informed as to their mental and physical condition, the right to assemble with other resident, protection from being forced to leave the facility for arbitrary or capricious reasons and the right to control and access of personal funds in the trust of the facility. The entire text of the Bill of Residential Rights is attached for your reference.
(1) All licensees of nursing home facilities shall adopt and make public a statement of the rights and responsibilities of the residents of such facilities and shall treat such residents in accordance with the provisions of that statement. The statement shall assure each resident the following: (a) The right to civil and religious liberties, including knowledge of available choices and the right to independent personal decision, which will not be infringed upon, and the right to encouragement and assistance from the staff of the facility in the fullest possible exercise of these rights.
(b) The right to private and uncensored communication, including, but not limited to, receiving and sending unopened correspondence, access to a telephone, visiting with any person of the resident’s choice during visiting hours, and overnight visitation outside the facility with family and friends in accordance with facility policies, physician orders, and Title XVIII (Medicare) and Title XIX (Medicaid) of the Social Security Act regulations, without the resident’s losing his or her bed. Facility visiting hours shall be flexible, taking into consideration special circumstances such as, but not limited to, out-of-town visitors and working relatives or friends. Unless otherwise indicated in the resident care plan, the licensee shall, with the consent of the resident and in accordance with policies approved by the agency, permit recognized volunteer groups, representatives of community-based legal, social, mental health, and leisure programs, and members of the clergy access to the facility during visiting hours for the purpose of visiting with and providing services to any resident.
(c) Any entity or individual that provides health, social, legal, or other services to a resident has the right to have reasonable access to the resident. The resident has the right to deny or withdraw consent to access at any time by any entity or individual. Notwithstanding the visiting policy of the facility, the following individuals must be permitted immediate access to the resident:
1. Any representative of the federal or state government, including, but not limited to, representatives of the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Health, the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Department of Elderly Affairs; any law enforcement officer; members of the state or local ombudsman council; and the resident’s individual physician.
2. Subject to the resident’s right to deny or withdraw consent, immediate family or other relatives of the resident.
The facility must allow representatives of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council to examine a resident’s clinical records with the permission of the resident or the resident’s legal representative and consistent with state law.
(d) The right to present grievances on behalf of himself or herself or others to the staff or administrator of the facility, to governmental officials, or to any other person; to recommend changes in policies and services to facility personnel; and to join with other residents or individuals within or outside the facility to work for improvements in resident care, free from restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal. This right includes access to ombudsmen and advocates and the right to be a member of, to be active in, and to associate with advocacy or special interest groups. The right also includes the right to prompt efforts by the facility to resolve resident grievances, including grievances with respect to the behavior of other residents.
(e) The right to organize and participate in resident groups in the facility and the right to have the resident’s family meet in the facility with the families of other residents.
(f) The right to participate in social, religious, and community activities that do not interfere with the rights of other residents.
(g) The right to examine, upon reasonable request, the results of the most recent inspection of the facility conducted by a federal or state agency and any plan of correction in effect with respect to the facility.
(h) The right to manage his or her own financial affairs or to delegate such responsibility to the licensee, but only to the extent of the funds held in trust by the licensee for the resident. A quarterly accounting of any transactions made on behalf of the resident shall be furnished to the resident or the person responsible for the resident. The facility may not require a resident to deposit personal funds with the facility. However, upon written authorization of a resident, the facility must hold, safeguard, manage, and account for the personal funds of the resident deposited with the facility as follows:
1. The facility must establish and maintain a system that ensures a full, complete, and separate accounting, according to generally accepted accounting principles, of each resident’s personal funds entrusted to the facility on the resident’s behalf.
2. The accounting system established and maintained by the facility must preclude any commingling of resident funds with facility funds or with the funds of any person other than another resident.
3. A quarterly accounting of any transaction made on behalf of the resident shall be furnished to the resident or the person responsible for the resident.
4. Upon the death of a resident with personal funds deposited with the facility, the facility must convey within 30 days the resident’s funds, including interest, and a final accounting of those funds, to the individual or probate jurisdiction administering the resident’s estate, or, if a personal representative has not been appointed within 30 days, to the resident’s spouse or adult next of kin named in the beneficiary designation form provided for in s. 400.162(6).
5. The facility may not impose a charge against the personal funds of a resident for any item or service for which payment is made under Title XVIII or Title XIX of the Social Security Act.
(i) The right to be fully informed, in writing and orally, prior to or at the time of admission and during his or her stay, of services available in the facility and of related charges for such services, including any charges for services not covered under Title XVIII or Title XIX of the Social Security Act or not covered by the basic per diem rates and of bed reservation and refund policies of the facility.
(j) The right to be adequately informed of his or her medical condition and proposed treatment, unless the resident is determined to be unable to provide informed consent under Florida law, or the right to be fully informed in advance of any nonemergency changes in care or treatment that may affect the resident’s well-being; and, except with respect to a resident adjudged incompetent, the right to participate in the planning of all medical treatment, including the right to refuse medication and treatment, unless otherwise indicated by the resident’s physician; and to know the consequences of such actions.
(k) The right to refuse medication or treatment and to be informed of the consequences of such decisions, unless determined unable to provide informed consent under state law. When the resident refuses medication or treatment, the nursing home facility must notify the resident or the resident’s legal representative of the consequences of such decision and must document the resident’s decision in his or her medical record. The nursing home facility must continue to provide other services the resident agrees to in accordance with the resident’s care plan.
(l) The right to receive adequate and appropriate health care and protective and support services, including social services; mental health services, if available; planned recreational activities; and therapeutic and rehabilitative services consistent with the resident care plan, with established and recognized practice standards within the community, and with rules as adopted by the agency.
(m) The right to have privacy in treatment and in caring for personal needs; to close room doors and to have facility personnel knock before entering the room, except in the case of an emergency or unless medically contraindicated; and to security in storing and using personal possessions. Privacy of the resident’s body shall be maintained during, but not limited to, toileting, bathing, and other activities of personal hygiene, except as needed for resident safety or assistance. Residents’ personal and medical records shall be confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1).
(n) The right to be treated courteously, fairly, and with the fullest measure of dignity and to receive a written statement and an oral explanation of the services provided by the licensee, including those required to be offered on an as-needed basis.
(o) The right to be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, extended involuntary seclusion, and from physical and chemical restraints, except those restraints authorized in writing by a physician for a specified and limited period of time or as are necessitated by an emergency. In case of an emergency, restraint may be applied only by a qualified licensed nurse who shall set forth in writing the circumstances requiring the use of restraint, and, in the case of use of a chemical restraint, a physician shall be consulted immediately thereafter. Restraints may not be used in lieu of staff supervision or merely for staff convenience, for punishment, or for reasons other than resident protection or safety.
(p) The right to be transferred or discharged only for medical reasons or for the welfare of other residents, and the right to be given reasonable advance notice of no less than 30 days of any involuntary transfer or discharge, except in the case of an emergency as determined by a licensed professional on the staff of the nursing home, or in the case of conflicting rules and regulations which govern Title XVIII or Title XIX of the Social Security Act. For nonpayment of a bill for care received, the resident shall be given 30 days’ advance notice. A licensee certified to provide services under Title XIX of the Social Security Act may not transfer or discharge a resident solely because the source of payment for care changes. Admission to a nursing home facility operated by a licensee certified to provide services under Title XIX of the Social Security Act may not be conditioned upon a waiver of such right, and any document or provision in a document which purports to waive or preclude such right is void and unenforceable. Any licensee certified to provide services under Title XIX of the Social Security Act that obtains or attempts to obtain such a waiver from a resident or potential resident shall be construed to have violated the resident’s rights as established herein and is subject to disciplinary action as provided in subsection (3). The resident and the family or representative of the resident shall be consulted in choosing another facility.
(q) The right to freedom of choice in selecting a personal physician; to obtain pharmaceutical supplies and services from a pharmacy of the resident’s choice, at the resident’s own expense or through Title XIX of the Social Security Act; and to obtain information about, and to participate in, community-based activities programs, unless medically contraindicated as documented by a physician in the resident’s medical record. If a resident chooses to use a community pharmacy and the facility in which the resident resides uses a unit-dose system, the pharmacy selected by the resident shall be one that provides a compatible unit-dose system, provides service delivery, and stocks the drugs normally used by long-term care residents. If a resident chooses to use a community pharmacy and the facility in which the resident resides does not use a unit-dose system, the pharmacy selected by the resident shall be one that provides service delivery and stocks the drugs normally used by long-term care residents.
(r) The right to retain and use personal clothing and possessions as space permits, unless to do so would infringe upon the rights of other residents or unless medically contraindicated as documented in the resident’s medical record by a physician. If clothing is provided to the resident by the licensee, it shall be of reasonable fit.
(s) The right to have copies of the rules and regulations of the facility and an explanation of the responsibility of the resident to obey all reasonable rules and regulations of the facility and to respect the personal rights and private property of the other residents.
(t) The right to receive notice before the room of the resident in the facility is changed.
(u) The right to be informed of the bed reservation policy for a hospitalization. The nursing home shall inform a private-pay resident and his or her responsible party that his or her bed will be reserved for any single hospitalization for a period up to 30 days provided the nursing home receives reimbursement. Any resident who is a recipient of assistance under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, or the resident’s designee or legal representative, shall be informed by the licensee that his or her bed will be reserved for any single hospitalization for the length of time for which Title XIX reimbursement is available, up to 15 days; but that the bed will not be reserved if it is medically determined by the agency that the resident will not need it or will not be able to return to the nursing home, or if the agency determines that the nursing home’s occupancy rate ensures the availability of a bed for the resident. Notice shall be provided within 24 hours of the hospitalization.
(v) For residents of Medicaid or Medicare certified facilities, the right to challenge a decision by the facility to discharge or transfer the resident, as required under Title 42 C.F.R. part 483.13.
(2) The licensee for each nursing home shall orally inform the resident of the resident’s rights and provide a copy of the statement required by subsection (1) to each resident or the resident’s legal representative at or before the resident’s admission to a facility. The licensee shall provide a copy of the resident’s rights to each staff member of the facility. Each such licensee shall prepare a written plan and provide appropriate staff training to implement the provisions of this section. The written statement of rights must include a statement that a resident may file a complaint with the agency or local ombudsman council. The statement must be in boldfaced type and shall include the name, address, and telephone numbers of the local ombudsman council and central abuse hotline where complaints may be lodged.
(3) Any violation of the resident’s rights set forth in this section shall constitute grounds for action by the agency under the provisions of s. 400.102, s. 400.121, or part II of chapter 408. In order to determine whether the licensee is adequately protecting residents’ rights, the licensure inspection of the facility shall include private informal conversations with a sample of residents to discuss residents’ experiences within the facility with respect to rights specified in this section and general compliance with standards, and consultation with the ombudsman council in the local planning and service area of the Department of Elderly Affairs in which the nursing home is located.
(4) Any person who submits or reports a complaint concerning a suspected violation of the resident’s rights or concerning services or conditions in a facility or who testifies in any administrative or judicial proceeding arising from such complaint shall have immunity from any criminal or civil liability therefor, unless that person has acted in bad faith, with malicious purpose, or if the court finds that there was a complete absence of a justiciable issue of either law or fact raised by the losing party.
If you, or a loved one, know of a family member that has been a victim of nursing home abuse, you should contact a qualified, experienced attorney to advise you of your legal rights. The Law Office of Dan Newlin & Partners is dedicated to protecting those rights. We have a staff that is experienced in handling nursing home abuse cases and knows the right questions to ask in order to get the right answers. You are encouraged to call our office any time for a free consultation and it would be an honor to answer any questions you may have. Call (407) 888-8000 now.