Once your loved one is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, what are their rights? The law in Virginia is very clear about the rights residents have at nursing homes and other facilities. What are these rights?
- Citizenship rights. Nursing home residents are given the same rights and protections they had as a normal citizen before entering the facility (free speech, property rights, freedom of religion, benefits from public services, etc.) Don’t let any facility in Virginia tell you otherwise! One of the only exceptions is if a resident loses his or her mental faculties and needs a responsible party appointed to make decisions in their place.
- Nursing Plan of Care. As soon as your loved one enters the facility, you should be given paperwork which outlines the policies and procedures regarding patient rights. One of the most important rights relates to what is known as the nursing or patient “Plan of Care.” This gives the details of the patient’s medical condition and how the facility plans to provide medical care. Within 48 hours of being admitted, a doctor or attending physician should evaluate the resident and create the plan, which assists staff and outlines treatments.
- Freedom from Physical and Chemical Restraints. In some cases, residents must be protected from harming themselves or others. This could stem from a mental condition or a physical ailment which is causing loss of control. But in general, a patient has the right to not be subjected to chemical or physical restraints. Chemical restraints are just as serious as physical ones! The family should always be advised before a doctor prescribes anti-psychotic medication or other behavior altering drugs.
- Privacy and Personal Rights. If a resident is still married when he or she moves into skilled care, they have the right to conjugal visits and private conversations with their spouse. Married couples are allowed to live together, barring conflicting medical conditions. Residents also retain the right to personal property (including mail that won’t be opened by the staff) and the ability to manage their personal finances.
Assisted living really is meant to be a home for its residents, even if it may not seem like it on the surface. However, medical professionals need to be given the proper flexibility to do their jobs, which is what makes this living situation unique. For a go-to long term care resource, check out my new book A Family’s Guide to Choosing the Right Virginia Nursing Home for Your Loved One.