Laws for Nursing Homes

In order to ensure that health care standards are high for residents of nursing homes, there are a number of individual state and Federal nursing home laws in place. The goal of these programs is to help maintain the social, physical, and overall mental health of residents of elder care facilities. Federal laws cover inspections with which all nursing home facilities need to comply. These laws also allow the government to conduct annual surveys and to pursue complaint investigations.

The Nursing Home Reform Act

First implemented by Congress in 1987, this act is an important policy that outlines the laws regarding nursing homes in the United States. It creates specific guidelines by with the facilities must abide in order to receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid. Laws under this act cover a number of different areas of care. They include everything from staffing and operational requirements to resident rights. The laws state that the wellbeing and the health of the residents cannot decline unless due to something that was unavoidable medically.

Resident Rights in Nursing Homes

The laws state that all residents of nursing homes will have certain rights, and that they will receive proper nutrition, social involvement, mental support, emotional support, and personal hygiene. Some of the other rights to which the residents are entitles include:

  • Proper health care – dental and primary care
  • Social services related to medical needs
  • Proper drug care
  • Dietary services
  • Special services for residents who may be mentally ill or retarded
  • Privacy when requested – personal, material, and financial
  • Proper treatment that does not violate the dignity of the resident

What Is a Personal Plan of Care?

When a resident comes to a nursing home, they are to receive a written plan of care personalized to fit their specific needs. The plan needs to cover all  the needs of the patient including the psychological, nursing and medical needs. The plan also needs to indicate how the facility plans to meet the needs of the patient.

In most cases, a doctor, RN, or a family member will prepare the plan of care. It should touch on the capacity of the resident to handle certain life activities in order to help the facility to know just what the patient needs. In the event of a change to the physical or mental wellbeing of the patient, the plan should change to reflect it.

Staffing Requirements

According to Federal law, all nursing home facilities need to have a proper staff for the residents to have the best possible healthcare. Laws require that all of the residents receive adequate care and attention. Of course, since all facilities are different, the requirements to meet the law will vary. However, all facilities need to offer 24-hour services from a licensed nurse. There needs to be a nurse  on duty at least eight hours a day. There are certain instances where the facility can use waivers for the requirements, but the exemptions are not to affect the health or safety of the residents.

The Older Americans Act

The Older Americans Act (OAA)  is a group of Federal laws for nursing homes that stems from 1965. The act was to help provide certain services for the elderly. The US Administration on Aging became the department for providing Federal grants. The grants can be used for a variety of things including:

  • Funding for senior centers and nursing homes
  • Social services
  • Community planning
  • R&D projects
  • Training for personnel regarding aging
  • Protection for the vulnerable elder rights
  • Job training for older Americans
  • Meals for older Americans
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