Elder Care: Resident Rights in Nursing Homes

Learn about what your rights are if you're involved in a case of abuse at a nursing home in Illinois.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 16,100 nursing home facilities in the United States. So many people are in the care of nursing professionals, and unfortunately, not everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. However, unless you or someone you know has already been through the process of dealing with a case of neglect or abuse when in a nursing home, you may not be aware of what your rights are and how you can maintain control of a situation.

Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, nursing home residents are granted a wide range of rights. These rights detail what residents can expect when they stay in a nursing home, and if these rights are infringed upon, the residents can fight against improper treatment. There are many rights that residents have, and fully understanding all of them is the first step in making sure a facility is providing appropriate care. That said, there are some rights that are infringed upon more often than others.

Here are a few rights you may not be familiar with, and what you can do if they are not upheld.

1. A resident has the right to present grievances, on behalf of him or herself or on the behalf of others, without threat of discharge or reprisal. In some cases of neglect or abuse, a resident may feel as though they can't report something because they will be forcibly removed from the facility. The Nursing Home Care Act (NHCA) prevents facilities from silencing residents by way of removing them from the home. This means that if a resident has a complaint or wants to file a report, the administrator of the facility must provide the resident or their representative with the name, address, and telephone number of the appropriate state governmental office where such a complaint can be filed. This protects the resident by ensuring a complaint doesn't get filed in, for example, a front desk notebook or equally unofficial location, only to go ignored and unmitigated.

2. Residents have the right to not wear identification bracelets. More clearly, the NHCA states that unless a physician documents the need for a resident to wear an identification bracelet, bracelets will not be used at all. Some residents in facilities may not be aware of this right, as generally identification bracelets are required in hospitals. However, nursing care facilities do not run by the exact set of guidelines as hospitals. Failure to follow this rule may be an indication that staff does not give residents enough attention; using identification bracelets may be an indication of neglectful care.

3. Psychotropic medication, or medication used for antipsychotic, antidepressant, antimanic, or antianxiety behavior modification or management, is not to be prescribed to a resident without their informed consent. At minimum, this means that there has to be a discussion between a)the resident or the resident's representative and b) the resident's physician, a registered pharmacist (who is not a dispensing pharmacist at the facility where the resident lives), or a licensed nurse. The resident is to be informed of the possible risks and benefits of the medication to be prescribed before consenting. Some residents may think that medications administered to them need only be prescribed by a physician, despite their wishes against taking a certain drug.

Of course, these are just three of the rights outlined in the NHCA, and failure to uphold any of those rights brings grounds for legal action. Making sure you have as many details as you can if you choose to seek legal help; the more information you can provide to a legal team, the better. If you are unsure if your resident rights have been infringed upon but suspect they may have been, consulting with a nursing home abuse lawyer can help determine if there is a case to pursue.

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