Laws protecting nursing home residents are essential in honoring their right to quality care. Federal and state laws not only protect essential health and safety amenities but also secure their fundamental human rights. Not only do these acts safeguard individual freedoms, but they can also help improve the quality of life of seniors who are living in nursing homes.
Federal Nursing Home Laws
Federal nursing home laws are essential in protecting the rights of seniors in long-term care facilities. These laws help to ensure that the elderly population is afforded their dignity, respect and autonomy by creating standards for staffing levels, quality and availability of medical treatment.
Nursing Home Reform Act
The Nursing Home Reform Act was enacted through the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 in response to a study from the Institute of Medicine (IoM) that revealed neglect and abuse of nursing home residents. The act requires facilities to:
- Assess each resident's health status
- Develop an individualized written plan
- Promote active choice of activities
- Maintain accurate records
- Have sufficient staff to care for residents
- Provide proper nutrition and hydration
- Ensure hygiene standards are met
- Take measures to prevent falls
The Nursing Home Reform Act also created a bill of rights for residents, which we will discuss further below, and Virginia adopted and expanded it. When nursing homes fail to meet these standards, they put themselves at risk of losing government funding.
Older Americans Act
The Older Americans Act of 1965 established the National Aging Network, which consists of the Administration on Aging, State Units on Aging, and Area Agencies on Aging. All three of these agencies work to ensure that older Americans stay healthy and independent. The National Aging Network provides funding – based largely on the percentage of an area's population that is 60 years or older – for nutrition and supportive services in home and community settings, elder rights programs, health promotion services, the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and the Native American Caregiver Support Program.
Elder Justice Act
The Elder Justice Act, which went into effect in 2010, provides funding to Adult Protective Services (APS) and requires nursing home staff members to report incidences of abuse. It also requires nursing homes to perform background checks on their staff members.
Virginia Nursing Home Laws
In addition to federal laws, every state has its own additional laws regarding nursing home abuse and neglect. Nursing home residents in Virginia have the right to:
- Be fully informed regarding their stay in the nursing home and their medical treatment.
- Be free from abuse and neglect.
- Voice grievances and suggest policy or service changes without fear of intimidation or discrimination.
- Fully manage their own financial affairs.
- Be free from mental, chemical and physical restraints unless necessary and authorized by a physician to protect the patient from themself or others.
- Privacy and dignity.