Resident Rights

A primary intent of federal regulations is to protect and promote the rights of residents to enhance their quality of life. It is a mandated obligation of nursing facilities to apprise residents of their rights; these require that residents be notified, both orally and in writing, of their rights and responsibilities and of all rules governing resident conduct. This notification and disclosure must take place before or up to the time of admission and must be reviewed during the course of a resident’s stay.

If a resident is not capable of understanding his or her resident rights, then a family member or other responsible person may sign on the resident's behalf. The following are some of those resident rights:

General Rights

  • Residents have the right to exercise all their rights as a citizen of the state, a citizen of the United States, as well as any other rights given them by law.
  • Residents cannot be discriminated against because of age, sex, race, ethnic origin, religion, or disability.

Privacy, Dignity, and Respect

  • Residents have a right to privacy.
  • Residents will be treated with consideration, dignity, and respect.
  • The resident’s likes, dislikes, and special needs and preferences must be considered in the services provided by the facility. This is called reasonable accommodation.
  • Personal and clinical records must be kept confidential. The resident has the right to refuse to allow others to see these records unless permission is given in writing. Residents have the right to communicate both verbally and in writing with anyone of their choosing. This includes family members, other visitors, ombudsmen, attorneys, and representatives of governmental agencies.
  • Residents have the right to send and receive personal mail unopened. Residents may request that staff assist them to open and read their mail when it arrives.

Safety and Security

  • Residents have the right to a safe environment.
  • Residents have the right to care that is free from misappropriation of property.

Medical Care and Treatment

  • Residents have the right to choose their own physician. They have the right to be informed of matters affecting their care and to make decisions regarding their care. Medical problems must be explained to a resident in a language he or she understands.
  • Residents may refuse treatment. If they do refuse treatment, they have the right to be informed of the consequences of their refusal.
  • Residents have a right to voice problems and complaints about their care without fear of reprisal. The facility is required to respond to these complaints. Residents have the right to make choices to withhold life-sustaining treatment in the event of terminal illness.
  • Residents may designate someone else to make treatment decisions for them in the event they become unable to make these decisions themselves.

Freedom from Restraint, Abuse, and Misappropriation of Property

  • Residents have the right to be free from abuse, neglect, and misappropriation of property. The facility is responsible for caring for the resident’s health, well-being, and personal possessions.
  • Drugs cannot be given for discipline or convenience to the nursing home staff. Any mood-altering drugs given must be required for the treatment of a medical condition.
  • Residents cannot be punished, scolded, abused, or secluded. Their privileges cannot be taken away and they cannot be physically, mentally, or sexually abused.
  • Residents cannot be restrained by physical means except for their own safety, the safety of others, in certain medical procedures, or in an emergency.

Financial Matters

  • Residents have the right to manage their own financial affairs or may choose another person to manage their money.
  • Facilities must account for and properly manage resident money deposited with them.

Freedom of Association

  • Residents have the right to have visitors at any reasonable hour.
  • Residents do not have to talk to or see anyone they do not want to visit.
  • Residents may make and receive private phone calls.
  • Married couples have the right to share a room.
  • Residents have the right to organize and participate in resident and family councils.
  • Residents may meet with others outside the facility.
  • Residents may leave the facility for visits or shopping trips.
  • Family members may meet with families of other residents in the nursing home.
  • Residents have the right to plan and execute their daily activities.
  • Residents have the right to vote in elections.


  • Residents may choose to work in the facility as part of their activity plan. They have the right to be paid the prevailing rate for the same type of work in the community. Residents may also perform certain duties without pay, if they choose to do so.

Personal Possessions

  • Residents may wear their own clothing.
  • Residents may bring in furnishings and personal belongings from their own home.


  • If the resident has a problem or complaint, he or she has the right to speak to those in charge.
  • The complaint may be about care or failure to receive expected services. The resident has the right to a response.
  • The resident has the right to contact the ombudsman for the facility and the state survey and certification agency.
  • The facility may not retaliate against residents who have complained.

Admission, Transfer, and Discharge

  • The facility must advise residents about eligibility for Medicaid. If Medicaid or Medicare pays for any items or services, the resident cannot be charged additional money for these services.
  • In the event of the resident’s death, the facility must give an accounting of money in the resident’s personal account to the person responsible for the estate.
  • Residents may not be asked to give up their rights to benefits under Medicaid or Medicare.
  • The facility is required to have the same policies and practices regarding services, transfer or discharge for all individuals regardless of their source of payment.
  • The facility may be required to hold the resident’s bed for a specified period if the resident is hospitalized or goes on a therapeutic pass.
  • The facility cannot make the resident leave or move to another room unless:
    • The health and safety of the resident or others are affected.
    • The facility cannot meet the resident’s needs.
    • The resident’s condition has improved so that services are no longer required.
    • The resident has not paid the bill and the facility has given the resident reasonable notice of discharge.
    • Residents must be given a thirty day written notice before they can be transferred unless there are medical reasons, or the life, safety, and health of the resident or others is endangered. The resident may waive the right to the thirty-day waiting period if he or she chooses.


Nursing Home Resident Rights

Elder Care Online