Does a Nursing Home Patient Have Legal Rights?
Updated: May 11
Every patient in a Medicare/Medicaid certified long term care facility has certain protections under state and federal law. The Federal law is applicable to every facility in the country. State law often reflects the basic rules set out in the Federal statute, but will also contain rules particular to the state in question.
The patient’s rights in these statutes all involve life, liberty, and property in some fashion. For example, a patient has the right to privacy, self-determination, access to their property, the presumption of decision-making capacity, freedom of movement, and association. Keep in mind that none of your loved one’s rights can be denied or limited by the facility without some level of notice, fair hearing, and time to prepare. If the patient is unable to advocate for themselves, then the right of procedural due process devolves to their representative.
The important thing for families to know is that their loved one does have rights as a patient. If something doesn’t “feel right” or seems “unfair”, it is probably because some fundamental right is involved. At a minimum, the family is entitled to notice of the issue and the opportunity to be heard by the administration. Take a look at the state and federal statutes to see if the issue is covered. Every patient is assigned an advocate in Delaware known as an “Ombudsman”. The Ombudsman functions as the patient’s representative with the facility. You can reach the Ombudsman for Delaware at 1-800-223-9074. You can always contact an Elder Law attorney for help as well.