Find a Nursing Home Lawyer

Nursing Home Law is a component of Elder Law, which is a specialty of law devoted to the needs of the elderly. Elder Law encompasses such areas as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, financial decision-making, living wills, and, of course, nursing home care.

Sadly, many of today's elderly citizens find themselves the victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. If your loved one resides in a nursing home, you should be aware of their rights as well as the options available to you if abuse should ever occur.

Residents' Rights

In 1987, Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Law, which essentially states that every nursing home resident must be provided with whatever services are necessary so that he/she may function at the highest level possible. The law awards residents a number of specific rights.

For one, all residents have the right to freedom from unnecessary physical and chemical restraints, except when such restraints are authorized by a physician in writing for a specified, limited time period.

In addition, all nursing home facilities must provide residents with a means of contacting the physician responsible for their care while also allowing them to participate in care planning meetings.

All residents have the right to access their records within one business day and to attain copies at a reasonable cost.

All facilities are required to provide residents with written descriptions of their legal rights.

Residents must be fully informed of all services available in the nursing home and of all related charges.

All residents are entitled to enjoy the right to privacy, which extends to all aspects of care as well as to personal visits and phone calls. Residents may share a room with a spouse and gather with other residents without a staff member present.

Residents can wake up and go to sleep whenever they choose, snack outside of designated meal times, and choose their own activities. All nursing homes must also offer a choice at main meals, as individual tastes and needs vary.

Residents may bring personal possessions such as clothing, jewelry, and furnishings to the facility in order to feel more at home.

Facilities are prohibited from moving residents to a different room or nursing home without advance notice, an opportunity for appeal, and demonstrating that such a move is either in the best interest of the resident or necessary for the health of the other people living in the nursing home.

Finally, all nursing home residents should be able to exercise their rights without interference or retaliation.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect When To Hire A Lawyer

While the Nursing Home Reform Law was designed to make the nursing home experience as safe as possible for our elderly citizens, cases of negligence and abuse unfortunately continue to exist. Examples of nursing home neglect may include the failure to assist in personal hygiene as well as the failure to prevent safety hazards, malnutrition, dehydration, and bedsores. Cases of abuse may involve assault, sexual assault, unreasonable physical or chemical constraints, and verbal abuse.

If your loved one has difficulty communicating, it is still possible to determine if an abuse has occurred. Signs may include dramatic weight loss as well as the formation of bedsores, bruises, and infections. There are also likely to be emotional symptoms such as social withdrawal and depression. If you suspect that there has been an abuse, it is important to take action immediately and consult an attorney.

A qualified attorney will obtain all relevant medical records, consult with expert physicians, and question witnesses in order to formulate a proper claim. Even if your loved one is unable to testify or has since passed away, this does not mean you do not have a case. But since, like the standard medical malpractice claim, the general statute of limitations for asserting your legal rights is two years from the date of the incident, the most important thing to remember is to consult an attorney the moment you suspect an abuse has occurred.

Moreover, if your loved one is a nursing home resident, you should be well-versed on not only the warning signs of negligence and abuse but on all the key components of Elder Law so that you will always be aware of his/her rights as a member of the senior community.

By Lindsay Rech           

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