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General States Nursing Home Law

Nursing home laws, particularly as they relate to the difficult area of elder abuse, vary widely from state to state.  Federal laws also come into play, and that means that it’s virtually impossible to consider state issues without also examining federal issues as well.

Regardless of whether nursing home laws are state or federal, they share the common purpose of protecting the elderly from neglect, abuse and exploitation. Much of the law involving nursing homes was introduced over the past 20 years – this is because we have an aging population, and instances of nursing home abuse and neglect have increased over the past two decades.

Federal Laws

Several laws exist to protect the elderly.

  1. The Nursing Home Reform Act

This act was passed in 1987, and is designed to make sure that residents in nursing home receive a certain basic level of care. Essentially, it established a bill of rights for all nursing home residents, including:

  • The right of privacy
  • The right to active participation
  • The right to be free from physical restraints
  • The right to be free from neglect, mistreatment and other forms of abuse
  • The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect
  • The right to dignity
  • The right to communicate without fear of censure
  • The right to self-determination
  • The right to participate actively in one’s care and treatment
  • The right to be informed in advance of any changes in care and treatment
  • The right to complain without fear of consequences

Although this is a federal law, it is enforced in every state, and it is up to responsible state agencies to ensure compliance. If the nursing home isn’t in compliance, then the state can impose penalties, including fines, and even dissolving and replacing the entire management structure of the offending nursing home.

  1. The Older Americans Act

Under this act, the elderly are entitled to comprehensive services, including proper health and nutrition programs.

  1. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

This is also a federal program, but it exists in each state and is enforceable by the state. Ombudsmen advocate for residents of nursing homes to resolve complaints and issues on behalf of individual residents. In each state, the Ombudsman investigates exploitation, neglect and abuse.

State Laws

As we’ve seen, many federal laws rely on the states for enforcement. Sometimes the responsibility even extends to individual municipalities when it comes to enforcing nursing home standards, and the penalties if services do not meet acceptable standards.

In every state, APS (Adult Protective Services) programs are in place for the protection of the elderly. What this means is that if a complaint is laid, either by the nursing home resident or the person who is designated as acting on his or her behalf, APS will investigate. Issues like the quality of shelter, food, health care, hygiene and clothing may be considered, and if laws have been violated, then the appropriate enforcement agencies will be contacted in order to protect the resident.

Physical and mental abuse of seniors is taken very seriously at all levels, and may constitute a criminal offense. This is also the case with financial exploitation. Any type of senior abuse, whether in a nursing home or in another setting, is a serious offense under the law and can result in prosecution.

If you are being abused in a nursing home setting in any state, or you suspect that someone you love is a victim of physical, verbal, mental or financial abuse, a lawyer who specializes in nursing home abuse cases can help you to ensure that the full force of the law is brought to bear on the nursing home responsible for such treatment.




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