A Summary Of Rights of Nursing Home Residents

Nursing home residents’ rights are part of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Law enacted in 1987 in the Social Security Act.

If you are a resident yourself or have a loved one in a nursing home, it is important to know and understand the rights of nursing homes residents. 

  1.   The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident.”  Personal dignity and self-determination is the rule. 

  2. In addition, nursing homes must meet residents’ rights requirements if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid.


Consumer Information Sheet

From The National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform

Quality of Life

The Nursing Home Reform Law requires each nursing home to “care for its residents in such a manner and in such an environment as will promote maintenance or enhancement of the quality of life of each resident.”  This requirement emphasizes dignity, choice, and self-determination for residents.

Providing Services and Activities

Each nursing home is required to “provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well- being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care which . . . is initially prepared, with participation to the extent practicable of the resident, the resident’s family, or legal representative.”  This means that a resident should not decline in health or well-being as a result of the way a nursing facility provides care.

Specific Rights: The Nursing Home Reform Law legally protects the following rights for nursing home residents:

The Right to Be Fully Informed, including the right to:

• Be informed of all services available as well as the charge for each service;

• Have a copy of the nursing home’s rules and regulations, including a written copy of resident rights;

• Be informed of the address and telephone number of the State Ombudsman, State survey agency office, and other advocacy groups;

• See the State survey reports of the nursing home and the home’s plan of correction;

• Be notified in advance of any plans to change their room or roommate;

• Daily communication in the resident’s language, for example, Spanish;

  1. Assistance if they have a sensory impairment.

The Right to Participate in Their Own Care, including the right to:

• Receive adequate and appropriate care;

• Be informed of any changes in their medical condition;

• Participate in their assessment, care-planning, treatment, and discharge;

• Refuse medication and treatment;

• Refuse chemical and physical restraints;

• Review their medical record.

The Right to Make Independent Choices, including the right to:

• Make independent personal decisions, such as what to wear and how to spend free time;

• Reasonable accommodation of their needs and preferences by the nursing home;

• Choose their own physician;

• Participate in community activities, both inside and outside the nursing home;

• Organize and participate in a Resident Council or other resident advisory group.

The Right to Privacy and Confidentiality, including the right to:

• Private and unrestricted communication with any person of their choice;

• Privacy in treatment and in the care of their personal needs;

• Confidentiality regarding their medical, personal, or financial affairs.

The Right to Dignity, Respect, & Freedom, including the right to:

• Be treated with the fullest measure of consideration, respect, and dignity;

• Be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints;

• Self-determination.

The Right to Security of Possessions, including:

• Manage their own financial affairs;

• File a complaint with the State survey and certification agency for abuse, neglect, or misappropriation of their property if the nursing

home is handling their financial affairs;

• Be free from charge for services covered by Medicaid or Medicare.

Rights During Transfers and Discharges, including:

• The right to remain in the nursing facility unless a transfer or discharge:

    (a) is necessary to meet the resident’s welfare;

    (b) is appropriate because the resident’s health has improved and

         the resident no longer requires nursing home care;

    (c) is needed to protect the health and safety of other residents or     

         staff; or

    (d) is required because the resident has failed, after reasonable

        notice, to pay the facility charge for an item or service provided 

        at the resident’s request;

• The right to receive thirty-day notice of transfer or discharge. The notice must include the reason for transfer or discharge, the effective date, the location to which the resident is transferred or discharged, a statement of the right to appeal, and the name, address, and telephone number of the state long- term care ombudsman;

• The right to a safe transfer or discharge through sufficient preparation by the nursing home.

The Right to Complain, including the right to:

• Present grievances to the staff of the nursing home, or to any other person, without fear of reprisal;

• Prompt efforts by the nursing home to resolve grievances;

• Complain to the survey agency and ombudsman program.

The Right to Visits, including the right to:

• Immediate access by a resident’s personal physician and representatives from the state survey agency and ombudsman programs;

• Immediate access by their relatives and for others “subject to reasonable restriction” with the resident’s permission;

• Reasonable visits by organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services.

Nursing home residents need to understand their rights.

Long Term Care Ombudsmen Help Protect

And Advocate For Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is required by federal law to promote and protect the rights of residents of nursing homes and related facilities, such as board and care homes.

An ombudsman is an appointed official whose duty is to investigate complaints, generally on behalf of individuals such as consumers or taxpayers, against institutions such as companies and departments of the government.

The Center promotes improvement of the quality of life and care of frail, vulnerable residents in long term care facilities. It engages in the following activities and services:

•Provides consultation and information and referral for ombudsmen and for the residents, families and others who use ombudsman services;

•Provides training opportunities and training resources for state and local programs;

•Promotes public awareness of the role of ombudsmen in long-term care;

•Works to improve ombudsmen effectiveness in meeting the needs of residents, including those served by managed care organizations and those in alternative settings, such as Medicaid waiver programs;

•Identifies research needs and promotes research on issues which affect the ombudsman programs or their constituents;

•Supports the ombudsman volunteer component through work with the AARP and other national or state-wide efforts to recruit volunteers for the program;

•Works cooperatively with all organizations and agencies which have as their mission the protection of the frail elderly who reside in long-term care settings and

•Promotes understanding and cooperation between ombudsman programs and citizen advocacy groups.

Contact your local or state ombudsman for information and assistance with making sure that resident rights are respected.  Many states also have citizen advocacy groups that champion resident rights.

To contact the local or state Long-Term Care Ombudsmen in your area go to: National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center


The National Citizens’ Coalition For Nursing Home Reform

The National Citizen's Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) was formed in 1975 because of public concern about substandard care in nursing homes.  Its ongoing work includes issues such as:

•Inadequate staffing in nursing homes, particularly all levels of nursing staff;

•Poor working conditions, salaries and benefits for long-term care workers;

•Maintenance of residents' rights and empowerment of residents;

•Support for family members and development of family councils;

•Resources for and support to Citizen Advocacy Groups (CAGs);

•Development and support for the long-term care ombudsman program;

•Minimizing the use of physical and chemical restraints;

•The high cost of poor care, such as pressure sores, dehydration, incontinence, and contracture of residents' muscles and 

•Accountability to taxpayers for nursing home expenditures and failure to fulfill government contracts.

Obtain contact information for your state or local ombudsman and citizen advocacy groups by contacting the National Citizens’  Coalition for Nursing Home Reform at 202-332-2275, email:, website:

Source: National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform   

Nursing Homes are required to promote and enhance quality of life of residents. 

Nursing Homes are required to provide services and activities that enhance Nursing Home residents’ well being and quality of life.

Nursing Home residents have the right to be fully informed and also to participate in their own care.

Nursing Home Residents’ rights include making personal decisions about choosing their physician, what they wear and how spend their free time.

Residents and patients have legally protected rights to privacy, confidentiality, dignity, respect and freedom during their stay in a Nursing Home or Skilled Nursing Facility.

Losses of personal property and possessions by residents in Nursing homes run in the millions of dollars every year.  Government losses due to Medicare and Medicaid fraud run in the tens of billions of dollars every year.

Residents have the right to complain and present grievances and expect prompt efforts to resolve them.

Nursing Home residents have the right  permit visits from doctors, advocates, relatives and others.

Funded by the Administration on Aging (AoA), the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center is operated by NCCNHR The National Consumer Voice for Quailty Long-Term Care, in cooperation with the National Association of State Units on Aging(NASUA).

If you are interested in learning more, the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) has several publications that may be of interest.  Call 202-332-2275 for a publication list or visit the website at

The National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) has several publications that may be of interest to Seniors, their families and caregivers.    Call 202-332-2275 for a publication list or visit the website at  Provides Free, Reliable Senior Information and Resources

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Nursing Homes Residents’ Rights

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