An assisted living facility or a nursing home is not a place where the elderly are sent to in order to simply be warehoused until they die, or a place to be forgotten, neglected and in worst-case situations abused. This is the intent that underlies the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law, which applies to West Virginia.
The purpose of the law is to ensure that nursing homes provide services and activities that will to the maximum extent possible foster the physical and mental welfare of residents, with an aim toward promoting the overall objective of residents’ sense of dignity, choice and self-determination.
The law, which has also been referred to as the “Residents’ Bill of Rights”, establishes several categories of rights, each of which includes multiple specific rights. The categories are:
- The right to be fully informed, in a language that the patient understands
- The right to complain without fear of reprisal
- The right to participate in one’s own care, including the right to refuse medication and treatment
- The right to privacy and confidentiality
- The right to dignity, respect and freedom, including the right to be free from physical and mental abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion and chemical restraint
- The right to make independent choices
- The right to visits by, among others, the resident’s personal physician and relatives (including the right to refuse visitors)
- Rights with regard to transfers and discharges
The actual number of specific rights under the law is too much to include all of them is a single post. Those who have loved ones in assisted living or nursing home care would be well-advised to be familiar with the Residents’ Bill of Rights, in case those loved ones themselves are not so familiar, and to consult with an attorney experienced with nursing home neglect and abuse cases if they suspect that any violation of these rights has occurred.