As a resident of a skilled nursing facility (SNF), you have certain rights and protections under federal and state law that help ensure you get the care and services you need. They can vary by state. The SNF must provide you with a written description of your legal rights. Keep the information you get about your rights, admission and transfer policies, and any other information you get from the SNF in case you need to look at them later. As a person with Medicare, you have certain guaranteed rights and protections. In addition, federal law specifies that SNF residents also have these rights:
Freedom from discrimination
SNFs don’t have to accept all applicants, but they must comply with Civil Rights laws that don’t allow discrimination based on race, color, national origin, disability, age, or religion under certain conditions. If you believe you’ve been discriminated against, contact the Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights.
You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. As long as it fits your care plan, you have the right to make your own schedule, including when you go to bed, rise in the morning, and eat your meals. You have the right to choose the activities you want to go to.
Freedom from abuse & neglect
You have the right to be free from verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, involuntary seclusion, and misappropriation of your property by anyone. This includes, but isn’t limited to, SNF staff, other residents, consultants, volunteers, staff from other agencies, family members, legal guardians, friends, or other individuals. If you feel you’ve been abused or neglected (your needs aren’t met), report this to the SNF, your family, your local Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or your State Survey Agency.
It may be appropriate to report the incident of abuse to local law enforcement or the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (their phone number should be posted in the SNF).
Freedom from restraints
Physical restraints are any manual method or physical or mechanical device, material, or equipment attached to or near your body so that you can’t remove the restraint easily. Physical restraints prevent freedom of movement or normal access to one’s own body. A chemical restraint is a drug that’s used for discipline or convenience and isn’t needed to treat your medical symptoms.
It’s against the law for a SNF to use physical or chemical restraints, unless it’s necessary to treat your medical symptoms. Restraints may not be used to punish or for the convenience of the SNF staff. You have the right to refuse restraint use except if you’re at risk of harming yourself or others.
Information on services & fees
You must be informed in writing about services and fees before you move into the SNF. The SNF can’t require a minimum entrance fee as a condition of residence.
You have the right to manage your own money or choose someone you trust to do this for you. If you ask the SNF to manage your personal funds, you must sign a written statement that allows the SNF to do this for you. However, the SNF must allow you access to your bank accounts, cash, and other financial records. The SNF must place your money (over $50) in an account that provides interest, and they must give you quarterly statements. The SNF must protect your funds from any loss by buying a bond or providing other similar protections.
Privacy, property, & living arrangements
You have the right to privacy, and to keep and use your personal belongings and property as long as they don’t interfere with the rights, health, or safety of others. SNF staff should never open your mail unless you allow it. You have the right to use a phone and talk privately. The SNF must protect your property from theft. This may include a safe in the facility or cabinets with locked doors in resident rooms. If you and your spouse live in the same SNF, you’re entitled to share a room (if you both agree to do so).
You have the right to be informed about your medical condition, medications, and to see your own doctor. You also have the right to refuse medications and treatments (but this could be harmful to your health). You have the right to take part in developing your care plan. You have the right to look at your medical records and reports when you ask.
You have the right to spend private time with visitors at any reasonable hour. The SNF must permit your family to visit you at any time, as long as you want to see them. You don’t have to see any visitor you don’t want to see. Any person who gives you help with your health or legal services may see you at any reasonable time. This includes your doctor, representative from the health department, and your Long-Term Care Ombudsman, among others.
The SNF must provide you with any needed medically-related social services, including counseling, help solving problems with other residents, help in contacting legal and financial professionals, and discharge planning.
You have the right to make a complaint to the staff of the SNF, or any other person, without fear of punishment. The SNF must resolve the issue promptly.
Protection against unfair transfer or discharge
You can’t be sent to another SNF or made to leave the SNF, except in these situations:
- It’s necessary for the welfare, health, or safety of you or others
- Your health has declined to the point that the SNF can’t meet your care needs
- Your health has improved to the point that SNF care is no longer necessary
- You don’t pay for the services you’re responsible for
- The SNF closes
- A SNF can’t make you leave if you’re waiting to get Medicaid. The SNF should work with other state agencies to get payment if a family member or other individual is holding your money.
Your family & friends
Family members and legal guardians may meet with the families of other residents and may participate in family councils. Family and friends can help make sure you get good quality care. They can visit and get to know the staff and the SNF’s rules.
By law, SNFs must develop a plan of care (care plan) for each resident. You have the right to take part in this process and family members can help with your care plan with your permission. If your relative is your legal guardian, he or she has the right to look at all medical records about you and has the right to make important decisions on your behalf.