It is no secret that people who are institutionalized are vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Our senior population who live in assisted living facilities are at particular risk because they are institutionalized due to a physically limiting condition, and are generally unable to completely care for themselves. This makes it easier for the elderly residents to be exploited, abused, or taken advantage of. To prevent intentional harm coming to any resident living in an assisted living facility, federal legislation has implemented safeguards and enacted laws.

“It The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law legally requires nursing homes to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life or each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination.”

Before you or your loved one moves into any facility, you should be familiar with the rights and stand up for them.

Every Resident has the Right to:

1. The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect.

This may seem obvious and is a right that should be afforded to every living being. Abuse does not just come in the form of physical or sexual assault but can include emotional and psychological abuse. Residents have the right to not be called names or be degraded. Mistreatment includes forcing a resident to do something or doing something to a resident without their consent, even cleaning food off their face without permission. Neglect is abuse and mistreatment by omission.

2. The right to freedom from physical restraints.

No resident should be physically restrained at any point and by any means unless they are an active physical threat to their own safety. Gone are the days that orderlies can man-handle residents when they aren’t “behaving.” No resident should be tied to a bed or chair at any point in their care. Having all the rails up on a hospital bed is considered physical restraints and is strictly forbidden.

3. The right to privacy.

The right to privacy includes mail, emails, and phone calls not being intercepted. Personal belongings should not be rifled through without expressed consent and a legitimate reason. Residents have the right to have their doors closed at any time to provide physical privacy. HIPAA laws protect information privacy. Personal and medical information about a resident should not be shared without the resident’s expressed consent.

4. The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs.

Reasonable accommodations should be made to meet the needs of all residents. Residents are more than their medical diagnosis. Their physical condition and needs should be considered and modifications made to accommodate them. Psychological needs should be taken into consideration during all points of care. Social needs should be considered and activities and social events should be hosted to promote interaction. The resident should always be informed, written and orally, in their native languages.

5. The right to participate in resident and family groups.

No resident should be denied access to participate in facility resident groups or family groups. If there is an internal conflict that creates a hostile environment, accommodations can be made that precludes one party from attending, but the reason must be justified and well documented. Participation in events should not be used as a reward or withheld as a form of punishment.

6. The right to be treated with dignity.

All humans have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. This means that residents will always be covered, bathroom doors closed, and they aren’t put in a position to be embarrassed. Their feelings, emotions, and decisions must be included. Caregivers should be careful how and where they touch residents. Pet names such as “honey,” “sweetie,” or “champ” should never be used. Residents should be called by their preferred name and should always be informed of anything being done to them or for them.

7. The right to exercise self-determination.

This means that the resident has the right to associate freely with any political or religious group and those choices should be honored and not affect their care. The resident has the right to make their own choices regarding every aspect of their life and care, including the right to refuse anything. The resident has the right to access information inside and outside the facility, including access to their own medical records.

8. The right to communicate freely.

Just as the 1st Amendment declares, all residents will have the freedom to express themselves through verbal or written words to anyone they chose. They have the right to have social media accounts, personal phones, and mail. Their communications should, under no circumstances, be intercepted, altered, or prohibited.

9. The right to participate in the review of one’s care plan, and to be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility.

The resident has the right to be included in and make decisions regarding, every aspect of care. If a resident is to be discharged, they must be informed, in advance. Orders shall not be written for any resident without it being discussed with the resident.

10. The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.

Residents have the right to complain verbally or file formal written grievances. These grievances should be addressed in a timely manner and reprisal as a result of submitting a grievance is unacceptable.

Every resident who enters an assisted living or long-term care facility must be provided with a copy of the Resident’s Bill of Rights and they must be honored by the facility and staff charged with the resident’s care. The Resident Rights are more than an arbitrary list of ideas that sound polite, they are a list of rights afforded to every resident in a long-term care facility. They are not open to interpretation, nor are they casual guidelines or privileges that can be negotiated; they are hard fast rights afforded to all residents, indiscriminately, and backed by federal law, punishable by very severe consequences.