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Six Things Nursing Homes Are Not Allowed To Do
If you have a loved one living in a nursing home, you undoubtedly want the best for them. While living in any nursing home comes with challenges, it’s important to be aware of the unlawful, neglectful, and abusive actions nursing homes are not allowed to do that can put residents at risk.
Unfortunately, short-staffed personnel, poorly trained employees, or unethical operators of retirement and nursing facilities sometimes break the law and subject residents to improper care, undue pressure, physical injury, and even wrongful death.
There are far too many ways nursing homes can abuse or neglect residents. Understanding you or your loved one’s Residents’ Rights, as outlined by a 1987 law, can be a good starting point if you think neglect or abuse is occurring.
The following six examples of things nursing homes are not allowed to do can also help you better evaluate a facility or uncover abuse or neglect.
1. Nursing homes must never force a resident to forfeit the right to be in control of their finances.
The exception is if a frail elderly person, a patient with dementia, or someone under the care of a guardian needs oversight. In that case, the family or caregiver should discuss how the facility manages resident finances. This must be done with the resident’s consent.
Importantly, the facility is required to deposit any of the resident’s personal funds in excess of $100 into an interest-bearing account separate from the facility’s operating accounts. Additionally, the facility cannot refuse to allow residents to access their financial records.
2. Nursing homes must not allow residents’ private belongings to be violated or stolen
Far too often, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities complain that their private belongings have disappeared. Sometimes, this is because the resident has become forgetful to the point that they place the item elsewhere and then can’t find it. But sometimes, a disappearing item or items have indeed been stolen. Residents’ and patients’ valuables should be securely stored in a locked cabinet.
3. Nursing homes must not allow physical or emotional abuse of residents
- Unexplained weight loss
- Complaints of hunger or thirst
- Broken bones
- Bed sores
- Sexual assault, including rape
- Giving the wrong medication or the wrong dose of medication
- Reluctance to speak in front of the staff
- Agitation or anxiety
- Body odor
- Abuse can come in many forms that are not always physical. For example, a shocking report by ProPublica revealed that at one facility, nursing home employees secretly took photos or videos of residents who were nude, on the toilet, or coached them to say things and then posted them on Snapchat and Facebook.
Although the residents weren’t physically harmed (that we know of), these incidents can be considered emotional abuse and are a clear violation of the resident’s rights to dignity and respect.
Nursing homes are required to prevent any form of abuse and neglect and act quickly if a violation does occur. Signs of abuse and neglect can be subtle, but the ramifications can have a lasting emotional and physical impact.
4. Nursing homes must not forbid residents from having a say in their medical treatment
General respect for the individual dictates that a patient must be able to provide direction on their medical treatment. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services provides guidelines and requirements for nursing homes and other skilled medical facilities.
If the facility is not following these guidelines, the family (or the resident) is well within their rights to contact an attorney for immediate assistance
5. Nursing homes may not discriminate against a potential resident in terms of race, gender, religion, age, or sexual orientation
Nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and assisted living facilities are forbidden to discriminate against any protected class. This includes race, gender, religion, age, and sexual orientation.
If you or your loved one has experienced or suspects such discrimination, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney immediately.
6. Nursing homes must never physically or chemically restrain a resident unless he or she poses a danger to themself or others.
The law does allow nursing homes to use restraints, when appropriate, on residents.
But nursing home staff should never physically or chmically restrain a resident. Neither should staff use sedatives or barbiturates as a chemical restraint unless the gerontologist or personal physician has prescribed such drugs.
What to do if a nursing home is abusive or neglectful
Nursing home management and staff should be aware of federal laws and the mandates from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. They must also be familiar with their state’s levels of care directives. Levels of care vary state by state. You can learn more about Arizona’s own directives from azag.gov/seniors/senior-abuse/mfcu.
If you think you’ve identified nursing home abuse or neglect with your loved one, then you should consult with professional nursing home abuse lawyers on what precisely the federal and state laws in this practice area cover. Solomon & Relihan can provide consultations to review the types of situations in which parties have an actionable nursing home neglect case. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Martin J. Solomon is a principal at Solomon & Relihan PC and has been licensed to practice law in Arizona since 1970. He practices exclusively in the area of personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on nursing home abuse and neglect. Martin is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law, a past president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, and has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Center for Disability Law and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He is a member of the Nursing Home Litigation Group in the American Association for Justice (formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association), the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform and the Maricopa Elder Abuse Prevent Prevention Alliance.