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Protect your loved one in a nursing home: Know your rights

Nursing home abuse takes place across the United States. Sadly, people often don't know that their loved ones are being hurt or are being taken advantage of until it's too late to do anything about it.

The good news for families of those who have been injured, lost their lives or been taken advantage of is that there are legal remedies available. There is no reason to allow a nursing home to get away with a lower standard of care than is legally acceptable.

What are the rights of a nursing home resident?

In addition to developing policies prohibiting nursing home abuse, nursing homes must provide residents with information about their legal rights. This information may be offered verbally or in written form, and residents must acknowledge that they received the information prior to being admitted to the facility. Nursing homes are also required to provide information about resident rights at different points throughout a resident's stay.

Some of the legal rights of nursing home residents include the right to:

  • See family members in a private setting
  • Keep personal possessions and maintain control of their money
  • Refuse treatment
  • Vote
  • Receive care free of discrimination
  • Make decisions about diet, such as eating kosher or vegetarian 
  • Keep medical records private
  • Participate in social and religious activities
  • Apply for Medicare and Medicaid benefits

Nursing home residents who are receiving Medicare and Medicaid benefits are entitled to receive the same standard of care as other residents who are paying privately. 

    What should you do if you worry that your loved one is in danger in a nursing home?

    If you believe that your loved one is unsafe in a nursing home, the best thing you can do is speak with the nursing home director, your attorney and a facility to where you could potentially transfer your loved one. You want to guarantee that someone is being informed of your concerns, that you have a legal plan ready and that there is another facility that can take on your loved one's care as soon as possible. Transfer them to the other facility if possible, so you can feel more confident in their care.

    You could also make yourself known in the nursing home so that the aides and nurses are familiar with you. By becoming more familiar with you as a family member of the resident, others are less likely to make mistakes or to commit crimes. Why? They know that you're watching.

    How to report an unsafe facility

    There are specific rights that residents, and their families, have during the annual inspection process by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

    The Illinois Department on Aging has the following tips and information for how concerned residents and family members can report suspected nursing home violations to the proper authorities and information on their rights during these inspections:

    1. If you, or a family member, have concerns about how you are being treated by a nursing home, keep written notes. These notes can be shared with facility inspectors and can be used to identify problems and areas of concern within a facility;
    2. Residents, and their relatives, can request private meetings with inspectors. This can be a confidential and safe way to convey concerns to the inspectors;
    3. All facilities are required to display their annual inspection results and to make copies of the previous five years' reports available upon request

    If your loved one is hurt or killed, the law is on your side. Reach out, so you can hold the facility responsible.

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