Residents’ Rights are guaranteed by the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination. Nursing homes must meet federal residents' rights requirements if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid. Some states have residents' rights in state law or regulation for nursing homes, licensed assisted living, adult care homes, and other board and care facilities. A person living in a long-term care facility maintains the same rights as an individual in the larger community.
Select on a below link to learn more about Residents' Rights.
- What are Residents' Rights?
- Residents' Rights in Other Languages
- National Residents' Rights Month
- Trainings and Inservices
- Ombudsman Best Practices
Residents' Rights Guarantee Quality of Life
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law requires each nursing home to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life of each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination.
All nursing homes are required "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 that… is initially prepared, with participation, to the extent practicable, of the resident, the resident's family, or legal representative." This means a resident should not decline in health or well-being as a result of the way a nursing facility provides care.
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law protects the following rights of nursing home residents:
The Right to Be Fully Informed of
- Available services and the charges for each service
- Facility rules and regulations, including a written copy of resident rights
- Address and telephone number of the State Ombudsman and state survey agency
- State survey reports and the nursing home’s plan of correction
- Advance plans of a change in rooms or roommates
- Assistance if a sensory impairment exists
- Residents have a right to receive information in a language they understand (Spanish, Braille, etc.)
Right to Complain
- Present grievances to staff or any other person, without fear of reprisal and with prompt efforts by the facility to resolve those grievances
- To complain to the ombudsman program
- To file a complaint with the state survey and certification agency
Right to Participate in One's Own Care
- Receive adequate and appropriate care
- Be informed of all changes in medical condition
- Participate in their own assessment, care-planning, treatment, and discharge
- Refuse medication and treatment
- Refuse chemical and physical restraints
- Review one's medical record
- Be free from charge for services covered by Medicaid or Medicare
Right to Privacy and Confidentiality
- Private and unrestricted communication with any person of their choice
- During treatment and care of one's personal needs
- Regarding medical, personal, or financial affairs
Rights During Transfers and Discharges
- Remain in the nursing facility unless a transfer or discharge:
- (a) is necessary to meet the resident’s welfare;
- (b) is appropriate because the resident’s health has improved and s/he no longer requires nursing home care;
- (c) is needed to protect the health and safety of other residents or staff;
- (d) is required because the resident has failed, after reasonable notice, to pay the facility charge for an item or service provided at the resident’s request
- Receive thirty-day notice of transfer or discharge which includes the reason, effective date, location to which the resident is transferred or discharged, the right to appeal, and the name, address, and telephone number of the state long-term care ombudsman
- Safe transfer or discharge through sufficient preparation by the nursing home
Right to Dignity, Respect, and Freedom
- To be treated with consideration, respect, and dignity
- To be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints
- To self-determination
- Security of possessions
Right to Visits
- By a resident’s personal physician and representatives from the state survey agency and ombudsman programs
- By relatives, friends, and others of the residents' choosing
- By organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services
- Residents have the right to refuse visitors
Right to Make Independent Choices
- Make personal decisions, such as what to wear and how to spend free time
- Reasonable accommodation of one's needs and preferences
- Choose a physician
- Participate in community activities, both inside and outside the nursing home
- Organize and participate in a Resident Council
- Manage one's own financial affairs
The Center is pleased offer Residents' Rights in the following languages, English, French, Hindu, Korean (Illinois specific, not federal version) Spanish and Russian (Illinois specific, not federal version). Select on the links below to access each version.
If you have a copy of Residents' Rights in a language not listed here and would like to share it with NORC, e-mail it to email@example.com. Thank you!
- Korean (Illinois specific, not federal version)
- Russian (Illinois specific, not federal version)
Residents' Rights Month is an annual event designated by the Consumer Voice and is celebrated in October to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, sub acute units, assisted living, board and care and retirement communities. It is a time for celebration and recognition offering an opportunity for every facility to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident. The theme for Residents' Rights Month 2013 is, "Speak Out Against Elder Abuse!" with the goal of encouraging residents and others to be educated about and speak out against elder abuse.
2013 Residents' Rights Month Packet of Materials
Each year, the Consumer Voice develops a packet to help you plan your Residents’ Rights events. The packet is completely downloadable and features ready-to-use items, including promotional materials, activities to celebrate Residents' Rights Month, training tools and resources.
Introduction & Overview
- A History of Celebrating Residents' Rights
- Residents' Rights Month Outline and Overview - Coming Soon
Training Materials and Elder Abuse Resources
- NORC's Elder Abuse/Elder Justice Issue Pages
- Administration on Aging's Year of Elder Abuse Prevention
- Administration on Aging's National Center on Elder Abuse
- Ageless Alliance
- National Resource Center on LGBT Aging's Elder Abuse Resources
- Fact sheet on elder abuse from the World Health Organization
- Resources from World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
- Residents' Rights Month 2013 Flyer (pdf)
- Reasons Why Ombudsmen Should Participate
- Reasons Facilities Should Participate in Residents Rights’ Month
- Sample Ombudsman Newsletter Article
- Sample Letter to the Editor
- Sample Press Release
- Proclamation - Governor
- Proclamation - Mayor
- National Residents' Rights Month 2013 Logo (pdf)
- National Residents' Right Month 2013 Logo (jpeg)
The Resident's Voice Challenge 2013
The Resident’s Voice is an opportunity for residents from facilities across the country to share their ideas about this year’s Residents’ Rights Month theme with other residents, ombudsmen, families, community members and nursing home staff.
Residents are encouraged to think about and respond to the following questions:
- Have you ever experienced having to speak out against elder abuse?
- Why do you think it's important to speak out against elder abuse?
- How can you encourage others to speak out against elder abuse?
- What could facilities, families and communities do to make residents feel safe and know that their right to be free from abuse is supported?
Residents can respond to the questions in writing (poems, stories), through art of any kind or with video’s/recordings. We will post some of the entries on our website. We encourage facilities/families to frame resident entries and hang them in residents’ rooms or other areas of the facility.
Submit entries to: firstname.lastname@example.org by July 12th.
- Resident's Voice Challenge 2013 Information Sheet
- Resident's Voice Criteria
- Photo Release Form
- Biopoem - This format can be used to collect information from residents to develop a poem about their lives.
- Resident Hero - This form can be used to collect information about residents to present in a faciltily open house or other activities. This information can be included with Resident's Voice entries posted within facilities or the community.
Residents' Rights Week Resources
- Learning Circle Exercise from the California Culture Change Coalition
- Resident Rights Report Sheet for 2013
- Residents' Rights Bingo Game (provided by The Legal Center)
Thinking Outside the Box (of Wine): Alcohol Use in Long-Term Care Facilities (August 2013)
This presentation prepared by the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program discusses residents' rights around alcohol use, risk considerations related to alcohol use, using the evaluation and care plan process to drive solutions to challenges with alcohol, and the use of root-cause analysis principles to problem solve.
Considerations Regarding the Needs of Long-Term Care Residents for Intimate Relationships and Sexual Activity – Carol Scott, Kansas City, MO: Center for Practical Bioethics.2007
Sexuality and Intimacy in LTC Facilities
Developed by Julie Button and Amy Panosh of the WI Board on Aging and LTC Ombudsman Program. Note that the consent piece of the presentation pertains only to WI case law. It is important that other states are aware of this and may need to do research on their consent laws in their state.
Guidelines for Resident Rights-Problem Solving Presentation (for up to 20 people) - A Tutorial for Ombudsmen
Guidelines for Large Group (30-150 staff) Resident Rights Presentation - A Tutorial for Ombudsmen
New Mexico State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Discusses Residents' Rights (November 2013)
Residents’ Rights and the LGBT Community: Know Your Rights as a Nursing Home Resident (October 2013)
This factsheet highlights federal residents' rights and nursing home requirements that may be of particular importance to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents and provides options for complaint resolution, information for reporting abuse and resources regarding long-term care and LGBT advocacy.
Technical Assistance Brief - Personal Property in Long-Term Care Facilities
Residents in long-term care facilities have the right to retain personal possessions and make their room as homelike as possible. While the size of the room and potential health and safety of other residents may need to be considered and result in limitations, a long-term care facility cannot ban the placement of personal property in a resident’s room. This TA Brief addresses the question of whether or not it is appropriate for a long-term care facility to restrict or ban personal property from appearing on the walls, floor or in other areas of the resident’s room.
Piecing Together Quality Long-Term Care - A Consumer's Guide to Choices and Advocacy
This guide from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (the Consumer Voice) and accompanying fact sheets are designed for advocates and consumers who are currently receiving or who may in the future receive long-term services and supports in the community. The purpose of these materials is to inform advocates and consumers about options for long-term services and supports, and to empower consumers - through education - to effectively advocate on their own behalf.
The CT LTCOP reported on the progress of the CT Statewide Coalition of Presidents of Resident Councils Executive Board. The State Ombudsman supports and facilitates the work of the Executive Board through regular meetings and conference calls, financial support to attend meetings in some instances and assistance with meetings with legislators and policy makers. (2011)
District of Columbia
The DC LTCOP organized and hosted the first annual Leadership Conference for presidents of resident and family councils at local nursing home, and organized a forum for social workers of long-term care facilities addressing issues with the return of residents to their homes via home and community based services. (2011)
The Iowa Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman received inquiries on a regular basis as to whether an attorney-in-fact, under a durable power of attorney for health care, can limit or deny visitation to a resident or tenant. As a result, OSLTCO developed a policy on visitation and access to residents after many concerns arose. The hope is that this policy will help inform and guide facilities, lawyers and other advocates on visitation rights, placing the focus on the resident. This policy has been shared with the survey entity, the protection and advocacy agency and NF/ALP associations. (2013)
The Mississippi program planned and organized its annual Snowflake Ball. Its mission is to provide a holiday outing for residents living in long-term care facilities. (December 2011)
The New Mexico LTCOP worked with the provider community to support the Physical Restrain Free State Initiative. To be recognized as a Physical Restraint Free Facility, a facility must request that the Ombudsmen conduct a seven step site visit scheduled at a mutually agreeable time. If this site visit shows any physical restraint usage, the facility has to provide detailed information about each instance of use that demonstrates that the usage was consistent with the exceptions allowed for under the law. The New Mexico LTCOP expects to build a more positive relationship with the nursing home industry such that facility staff members learn to work with ombudsmen instead of against to promote resident rights and wishes. (2013)