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What are Resident Rights in Senior Living?

What are resident rights in senior living

Key Summary

Residents of senior care communities have rights protected by state and federal law, including dignified and respectful treatment. Learn about your rights now.

Seniors in Assisted Living have protected rights under the law. These rights provide them with the authority to choose how they want to be cared for, how to stay informed, and how to protect their privacy. When deciding if a senior community is best for you or your loved one, rest assured that it is always the decision of the care recipient to determine how they want to be cared for. These communities encourage their residents to live purposeful lives and are always treated with respect and dignity, no matter the type of care they require. 

This article will discuss the Resident’s Bill of Rights, how state laws work regarding these rights, the level of privacy for different care-type communities, and what Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) are not allowed to do. 

Resident’s Bill of Rights  

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act was established to promote and protect each resident’s rights. It requires each Skilled Nursing Facility to care for its residents in a manner that supports and ensures the quality of life of each resident, dignity, choice, and self-determination. 

Part of the Reform Act is the guaranteed resident's right or the “Resident's Bill of Rights.” Under the Resident's Bill of Rights, Skilled Nursing Facility residents' rights are protected under state and federal law, including the right to be informed, make decisions, and have their personal information kept private. 

Some additional rights laid out in the Resident’s Bill of Rights and protected under the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law are:  

  • The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect.  
  • The right to freedom from physical restraints. 
  • The right to privacy.  
  • The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs.  
  • The right to participate in resident and family groups. 
  • The right to be treated with dignity.  
  • The right to exercise self-determination.  
  • The right to communicate freely. 
  • The right to review one's care plan and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or modification of status in the facility. 
  • The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.  

State Laws Regarding Resident Rights

A senior community, such as a Skilled Nursing Facility, Assisted Living, or Independent Living Community that accepts Medicare and Medicaid by state law must meet all federal residents’ rights outlined in the Resident’s Bill of Rights.  

Regardless of whether they work with Medicare and Medicaid, other states have residents' rights in state law or regulations for Skilled Nursing Facilities, licensed Assisted Living Communities, Home Care, and other board and care facilities. In this case, the senior care communities must meet the state's regulations on personnel standards, building, health, and fire codes. Together, the state and federal governments work to protect each resident's right to a safe, quality life. 

Level of Privacy by Type of Community   

Along with the right to self-choice and dignified treatment, senior living community residents have the right to privacy. These communities understand that privacy is needed to maintain a resident's independence and high quality of life. The level of privacy may vary based on the community's state and the facility's leniency. 

For Skilled Nursing Facilities working with Medicare and Medicaid, residents’ rights, including privacy, must be met by federal law. At the same time, Assisted Living privacy will be based on state regulations and community guidelines. Independent Living residents receive the same level of privacy they would experience if living in a public apartment complex, with privacy for them and their visiting guests. Memory Care residents can privately send emails and call friends and family on the phone.  

Referah provides numerous resources for residents and their families across care types, from legal to financial and of course, with care. If you or a loved one needs assistance with diabetes management, take a look at our next article, “Assisted Living Community Diabetes Management.”  

Things Nursing Homes Are Not Allowed to Do 

While commonly referred to as “nursing homes”, resident rights in Skilled Nursing Facilities (and any other senior living community) are what many are curious about.  

Staff in SNFs are forbidden from abusing, neglecting, or mistreating residents physically, verbally, or emotionally. They must allow residents the ability to make their own decisions, such as when they want to sleep, eat, and activities to participate in throughout the day. Residents cannot be discriminated against based on gender, race, age, etc. Additionally, a resident's finances cannot be used without approval, and even with consent, residents must have access to their money and financial statements. 

Discover other important legal terms that you and your loved ones might need to protect your rights, described in our resources on power of attorney, guardianship, living will and more.

Find Senior Care Near You 

Senior care communities are passionate about giving residents the care needed to live a happy and fulfilled life. In these communities, you will receive the care you expect and the privacy you require. If you feel your rights are not being met, you can discuss your concerns with the community administrator. If you think nothing is done to change the situation, you should file a complaint with Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organizations (BFCC-QIOs) or the appropriate Ombudsman.  

Let Referah's team of Family Connection Agents help you with the process, who work directly with seniors, their families, and (by extension) medical advisors to identify the best forms of support. Talk to one of our experts about finding professional care for your loved one today.

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