A brief history of residents’ rights
People who live in long-term care facilities are more vulnerable than people who live independently. In 1987, the United States Congress recognized this fact and passed the Nursing Home Reform Act, giving nursing home residents additional legal protections, including a set of residents’ rights. Later, Colorado passed a law giving similar protections to residents of assisted living facilities. The bottom line is, just because someone moves into a long-term care facility does not mean they give up their rights.
An overview of residents’ rights
If you live in a long-term care (LTC) facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living facility (also called a boarding care facility) you have the same civil and legal rights as all U.S. citizens, plus a basic set of legally protected residents’ rights. Nursing home residents are granted these additional rights under federal law (42 C.F.R. § 483.10), while residents of assisted living facilities are granted additional rights under Colorado law (6 CCR 1011-1, Chapter 7). Residents’ rights cover all aspects of your stay, from admission to living in the facility, and discharge.
Some of these rights are:
- Right to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation
- Right to be treated with dignity and respect
- Right to be free from chemical and physical restraints
- Right to participate in your treatment and care planning
- Right to refuse treatment
- Right to privacy
- Right to visitors
- Right to participate in community activities
- Right to control your finances
- Right to know about services and fees
- Right to express grievances without fear of retaliation
Residents’ rights put you in charge
Residents’ rights enable you to direct all aspects of your stay in a long-term care facility. For example, you have the right to make decisions regarding your care and plan of treatment, how you wish to conduct your personal life, and at what time and location you want to be discharged from the facility.
Understanding and advocating for your rights is critical to a successful stay in an LTC facility. You, your representative, or court-appointed guardian can exercise your rights. A long-term care ombudsman can explain and assist you in exercising your rights.
What can you do if your rights are being violated?
Whether you live in a nursing home or an assisted living facility, you or your advocate can pursue these options one at a time, simultaneously, and in any order:
- Talk directly to facility staff
- File a written grievance with the facility
- Voice your concern and get support at a resident council meeting
- Call your local LTC Ombudsman Program for advice and/or to request their help and involvement
- Call the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to report your concern at 1-800-886-7689, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Provide specific details about your concern, your name and phone number, and a good time to reach you.
- CDPHE will call you back.
- You also have the option to remain anonymous to CDPHE, the facility, or to both entities.
Retaliation, coercion, or interference
It is illegal to retaliate against residents in any way for talking to the ombudsman or filing a complaint or grievance. It is also illegal for a facility to interfere with the ombudsman’s duties, including the investigation of complaints or provision of information to residents, families, and others. Residents have the right to meet privately with the ombudsman and to have these conversations remain confidential. The ombudsman’s investigations and records are also confidential unless disclosure is approved.