Understanding Elder Law and Nursing Home Issues: Rights of the Elderly

It’s never an easy decision to place a parent or loved one in a nursing home, but in many cases it is the best possible solution for an elderly relative who wants to maintain some degree of independence but who can’t live on his own. Many of today’s facilities are respected places that provide exceptional care, but there is always the chance that your parent could end up as the victim of abuse or neglect. If this is the case that you’re facing, learn when to contact litigation attorneys for help.Elder Law Protects Nursing Home ResidentsFortunately, the government has put various elder law reforms into place as a means of protecting residents and their families. One of the most comprehensive is the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law, which outlines the rights of residents, including:• The availability of resources and services for the highest level of functioning• Freedom from unnecessary restraints, including physical restraint or the use of drugs unless they are prescribed by a doctor for a limited and specific period of time• Privacy, including privacy for visits and telephone conversations• You have the right to have and use your own personal effects as long as they don’t interfere with the rights or the safety of others• The right to be notified in advance of any change in roommate or change in living arrangements such as being moved to a new room• The right to consult with an elder law representative• The opportunity to manage finances and have access to your own money• The ability to set your own schedule for sleeping and rising, eating, choosing your own clothing, and other daily activities• The right to leave at any time• Freedom from coercion, intimidation or fear of reprisal from employeesThere are additional rights outlined in the regulation that could pertain to your loved one. An elder law attorney can go into these with you in more detail and help you select a facility that conforms to all aspects of the Reform Law.When Is A Litigation Attorney Needed?If you suspect that your family member is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should immediately begin monitoring his activities closely. Keep track of his health, level of alertness and needs on a daily basis, including how and when staff members respond to those needs. If you believe that there is a problem, request a meeting with the director of the facility and clearly outline your concerns. The director should be able to resolve the issue to your satisfaction, but if you don’t feel things have changed, contact the ombudsperson assigned to the nursing home. This is a patient advocate assigned by the state to handle these kinds of disputes.If the situation still isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, you should consult with a litigation attorney versed in elder law issues. While you may be able to resolve the problem without going to court, it is best to work with a litigation attorney so that your loved one is represented by a lawyer who can effectively make a case in the event you do have to sue the facility.

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