Once a person has moved into a nursing home, they are situated in a health care facility and receiving patient care, but they are also living there, and are therefore referred to as a “resident” rather than as a “patient.” The critical laws governing Residents’ Rights are the federal Nursing Home Reform Act, 42 USCS ‘ 1395i-3(b) and 42 CFR ‘ 483.10, and its state counterpart statute (N.J.S.A. 30:13-1 et seq.) and regulations. It is plain that some of the rights contained in the law reflect privacy rights that pertain to a citizen no matter where he or she lives.
A nursing home is required to provide services for each resident in manner designed to preserve the resident’s dignity and to attain and maintain highest practicable physical, mental and psycho-social well-being of the individual resident based on his or her individual needs, and must abide by the Nursing Home Resident’s Rights Act, 42 USC 1395i-3(b), (c), 1396r; 42 CFR 483.10 et. seq., 483.12, 13, 15; 4.25, 483.30B; 483.60, 483.65, and 483.70; NJS 30:13-1 et. seq.; NJAC 8:39-4.1. For case discussions, see; In re Keri, (NJ Supreme Court. 2004); Profeta v. Dover Christian Nursing Home, (N.J. App. Div. 1983).
The federal regulations implementing the Nursing Home Reform Act, 42 CFR ‘ 483.12, requires the facility to develop an individualized plan of care that will maximize the well-being of the individual resident. Services must be provided without discrimination based on payor source. This means that the same level of service must be provided to the private pay resident as to the Medicaid recipient. Input from the resident, resident’s next of kin or fiduciary, and the attending physician and registered professional nurse responsible for the resident’s care should be obtained whenever possible. 42 USC 1395i-3(b)(2), 42 USC1396r(b)(2). An initial plan of care is developed and is then reviewed at regular intervals.
The resident has an enforceable right to have a specific level of care to maintain or assist the resident to perform daily living activities which include but are not limited to maintaining nutrition and hydration and avoiding accidents. This means that if the resident cannot feed herself, the facility must include manual feeding in the personal plan of care. The facility cannot maintain that it’s too time-consuming to do so. Similarly, if the resident tends to try to get out of bed or walk on her own, the facility has to include safety arrangements such as higher supervision within her plan of care. The facility cannot insist that the family provide extra personal aides to deliver services that are needed to protect these residents’ rights.