There are several federal laws that offer crucial protection to elderly citizens, including those residing in nursing homes.

These laws create certain standards to ensure residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are safe from abuse, neglect and exploitation.

If someone you love is residing in a nursing home, it is important that you understand the rights he or she is guaranteed, as well as the institutions that enforce these laws. If you have any concerns about your loved one’s safety, contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer.

Nursing Home Reform Act

A fundamental pieces of legislation that ensured the quality of care and treatment provided to nursing home residents was the Nursing Home Reform Act.

The bill was passed after Congress asked the Institute of Medicine in 1986 to conduct a study of the quality of care provided to residents of U.S. Medicare and Medicaid nursing homes.

The results of the study found that most nursing home residents were often abused, neglected or provided inadequate care.

In response to these findings, Congress and the Institute of Medicine initiated a series of reforms and passed the Nursing Home Reform Act in 1987.

The rights of nursing home residents were significantly increased and more control was extended to residents who were then able to choose the direction of their treatment and terms of their living situation.

Residents’ Bill of Rights

The Nursing Home Reform Act also created the “Residents’ Bill of Rights,” which nursing homes are now required to provide to each incoming resident.

The Resident Bill of Rights was created to ensure that each nursing home resident is treated with dignity and respect by the staff of the facility they reside in.

The Resident Bill of Rights ensures each resident is provided the right to:

  • Be treated with dignity and respect
  • Freedom from physical restraint
  • Privacy
  • Accommodation of medical, physical, psychological and social needs
  • Communicate freely with family and loved ones outside the facility
  • Exercise self-determination and choose a schedule
  • Voice concerns and grievances without the fear of discrimination or retaliation
  • Participate in family and resident groups
  • Choose a care plan and be fully informed in advance of any changes in care, treatment or changes of the treatment plan’s status

Services Residents are Entitled

The Nursing Home Reform Act also addressed the issue of inadequate treatment by guaranteeing residents are provided with certain services, such as:

  • Access to nursing, social and rehabilitation services
  • Access to dietary and pharmaceutical services
  • Periodic assessment of each resident
  • A comprehensive care plan developed specifically for each resident
  • Access to a full-time social worker if the nursing home has more than 120 beds

Increased Regulation of Nursing Homes

After the Nursing Home Reform Act was ratified by Congress, nursing homes funded by Medicare and Medicaid became subject to higher standards for the care and treatment of their residents.

The act required states to conduct unannounced surveys at random 15-month intervals in which the surveyor focuses on residents’ rights, quality of life and the services provided to them.

Surveyors are required to personally interview residents, and when a complaint is filed against a facility, a surveyor must conduct a target survey to investigate the complaint.

If a survey reveals an instance of non-compliance by a nursing home, the nature of the violation is evaluated and dealt with accordingly by the state in which it resides.

Each state is required to evaluate certain criteria when a complaint or violation is reported, such as:

  • Whether or not the deficiency immediately jeopardizes a resident’s safety
  • Whether or not the deficiency is an isolated incident, is part of a continuous pattern or occurs widespread throughout the facility

Penalties for Violating the Nursing Home Reform Act

If a nursing home violates any of the requirements listed in the Nursing Home Reform Act, the state may impose penalties such as:

  • Monitoring
  • Installing temporary management
  • Denying funding through Medicare or Medicaid
  • Civil monetary penalties
  • Termination of the agreement for state and federal funding

Any nursing home in Oklahoma that is found to maintain a substandard facility or deprive or violate a resident’s rights is subject to strict penalties by the Oklahoma Department of Health and Human Service’s Adult Protective Services division.

Title XX of the Social Security Act

The Social Security Act of 1935 was a crucial act passed by Congress that established a system of benefits for the elderly and disabled.

Through Title XX of the Social Security Act, the federal government provides funding and grants to state agencies tasked with creating programs and community-based care for the elderly and nursing home residents.

Title XX is also responsible for helping establish legal efforts to address and prevent elder neglect, abuse and exploitation.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program exists in every state in the U.S. The ombudsmen are advocates for nursing home residents and resolve issues concerning the care of nursing home residents.

The Ombudsmen office in each state is responsible for investigating individual claims of nursing home abuse, neglect and exploitation.

In Oklahoma, the Ombudsmen Program is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, which serves residents of long-term care adult living facilities, including nursing homes.

If you are attempting to file a complaint against a nursing home facility in Oklahoma, you must contact the ombudsmen supervisor in your area.

Older Americans Act

Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965 due to policymakers’ concern over a lack of community social services for older persons.

The OAA originally provided funding to states for research and development projects, personnel training in the field of aging, and established funding for states to create social programs designed to assist older persons.

The OAA also led to the creation of the Administration on Aging, which is the primary agency tasked with carrying out the federal government’s support of older persons.

The OAA is also responsible for starting the meals-on-wheels program and other nutrition-based initiatives that provide high-quality food and services to older persons.

Other forms of community social services it created for older persons include:

  • In-home services
  • Transportation
  • Legal services
  • Elder abuse prevention and caregiver support programs

The OAA was created with the intention of allowing older persons to enjoy as much independence as possible in their homes and within communities, while avoiding dependency on hospitals and nursing homes.

In Oklahoma, the Aging Services Division of the Department of Human Services is responsible for carrying out the services provided by OAA throughout the state to older persons.

Have Your Loved One’s Rights Been Violated?

If you suspect your loved one‘s rights have abused or neglected by a nursing home staff member, you should immediately contact the proper authorities and remove him or her from the facility.

Once your loved one is safe, do not hesitate to consult with our experienced nursing home abuse attorneys.

We can review your claim through a free consultation that comes with no obligation to hire our firm. We never charge our clients upfront legal fees and only get paid if we recover a reach a favorable outcome for your claim.