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Faced with increasing public concern over the quality of care in nursing homes, the state of Florida and the federal government established a set of regulations significantly changing the manner in which these facilities treat their residents.
These regulations define minimum standards of care; intend to “promote and protect the rights of each resident”; and aim to provide residents with a higher quality of life. Under these regulations, nursing homes are required to “provide residents with regular evaluations, complete care plans, nursing services, social services, rehabilitation, pharmaceutical care, dietary services, and a full-time social worker.” To ensure that residents are aware of these and other rights, the guidelines must be displayed in every facility, along with a contact number for the Florida’s long-term care ombudsman.
If you believe your loved one’s rights have been violated, our attorneys may be able to help. Please fill out our free, no obligation case review form for more information.
Nursing Home Reform Act
The federal Nursing Home Reform Act, a federal law enforced in Florida and all other states, establishes a baseline for the level of care that is required in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The Act requires nursing homes 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.” Both government and Florida state inspection of facilities are required, and sanctions will be imposed if violations of the Act are uncovered.
Some of the most significant changes to nursing home care requirements include:
- An emphasis on enhancing residents’ quality of life and care;
- Opportunities on and off premises for potential and current residents with mental illnesses to be properly diagnosed and treated;
- Uniform certification standards for Medicare and Medicaid homes;
- A new assessment process designed to develop an individualized care plan for residents;
- Stricter punishments and citations for facilities that fail to meet federal minimum care standards;
- Provision of services and activities allowing residents to reach their highest mental and physical peak.
What Rights are Afforded to Nursing Home Residents?
The Nursing Home Reform Act has afforded those living in nursing homes the right to:
Dignity, Respect, and Freedom
- Nursing home residents must be treated with consideration, respect, and dignity. Additionally, they are to be free of mental and physical abuse or neglect, corporal punishment, physical and/or chemical restraints or sedation, and involuntary seclusion.
- The Nursing Home Reform act also guarantees residents the right to self-determination and the security of all their possessions and finances.
- Nursing home residents must be made aware of all available services, as well as any charges related to those services.
- All facilities must clearly and visibly post their own rules and regulations, as well as a written copy of residents’ federal rights, complete with contact information for the state’s ombudsman and survey agent.
- Residents also have the right to be notified in advance of any room or roommate changes.
- Finally, nursing home residents have the right to receive any and all information in a language they understand (Braille, Spanish, English, etc.).
- The Act gives residents the right to present complaints to staff without fear of discrimination or reprisal, followed by prompt effort by caretakers to resolve those grievances.
- Residents are also allowed to file official complaints with the state ombudsman program or survey and certification agency without fear of retribution.
- Residents have the right to unrestricted private communication with any person, especially while receiving treatment and care for their personal or medical needs.
- Residents may also speak privately about medical, personal, or financial matters without facility or caretaker interference.
Make Independent Choices
- Elderly residents must be allowed to make their own decisions, such as what to wear, how to spend free time, who may visit, and how to handle finances, among others.
- Furthermore, residents have the right to select their own personal physician, as well as organize and participate in a “Resident Council.”
- Additionally, residents have the freedom to choose whether to participate in community social activities both inside and outside the facility.
- Residents must be allowed visits from relatives, friends, and any other party, as well as a personal doctor and/or representatives from the state survey agency and ombudsman.
- Nursing home residents also have the right to private visits from organizations or individuals providing other health, legal, or social services.
- Additionally, residents have the right to refuse any visitor.
Participate in Their Own Healthcare
- This includes the right to receive sufficient and appropriate care; be informed of all changes in a medical condition; refuse chemical and physical restraints, as well as any medication or treatment; and review medical records at will.
- A resident may also participate in their own assessment, care-planning, treatment, and discharge.
Transfer and Discharge Information
- Residents have the right to remain in a facility unless they must be transferred or discharged for their own safety or because they no longer need nursing home care. Additional reasons for a discharge or transfer can include the need to protect the health and safety of staff or other residents or because, after reasonable notice, a resident has failed to pay a facility for items or services.
- Residents must be informed 30 days in advance of any discharge or transfer and given the reason and effective date of the move. Residents almost always have the right to appeal.
How to Seek Help if You Believe Your Rights Have Been Violated
Nursing home residents are entitled to all rights granted to citizens of the United States, as well as special “resident rights” provided by Florida state law. Complaints and concerns of a violation of any of these rights can be filed by the resident, the resident’s family, nursing home staff, or anyone concerned with the level of care the resident is receiving.
These complaints can be filed with the facility itself, an advocacy group, or relevant government agency, including:
Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: A specially trained and certified individual will investigate the situation and attempt to resolve the issue. The ombudsman role is “to protect the legal rights of residents and assure that they receive appropriate treatment and quality care.” To file a complaint with a local chapter of the Florida Ombudsmen Program, a complaint may be filed in person, in writing, or by calling 888-831-0404.
Florida Abuse Hotline: The hotline is committed to providing protective services for residents who are mistreated. Florida State law mandates that any abuse, neglect, or threatened harm is reported to 800-962-2873.
Agency for Health Care Administration: Complaints of violations can be reported to this agency, which handles licensing and regulation of nursing homes in Florida by calling 888-419-3456.
Elder Helpline: The Department of Elder Affairs can provide information on how to seek help if you believe a loved one’s rights have been violated. Call 800-963-5337 for more information or to file a complaint.
Medicaid Fraud Control Unit: This unit investigates reports of corruption, abuse, and neglect in nursing homes. Contact 866-966-7226 or visit myfloridalegal.com for more information.
If you believe a loved one in a nursing home is a suffering from abuse and/or negligence, please fill out our no charge case review form to learn more about how our attorneys may be able to help you.