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What rights do West Virginia nursing home residents have?

Long-term care facilities in Charleston must do more for residents than meet their medical needs. Federal and state laws protect the rights of nursing home residents. Providers in violation of these rules risk losing Medicaid and Medicare affiliations and may face legal claims alleging elder abuse.

The 1987 U.S. Nursing Home Reform Law covers issues about resident access to doctors, records, advocates, family and friends. The federal law and a companion law in West Virginia outline the nursing home's duties toward the resident. The laws state what should be done to preserve dignity and support residents' well-being.

Nursing homes must inform residents about the rules, services and expenses associated with the facility. Residents cannot be restricted from contacting an ombudsman or viewing the results of state nursing home inspections. Residents have the freedom to choose which visitors they wish to see or refuse to see.

The nursing home may not impose restrictions upon personal choices like what clothes to wear, how to handle finances or the choice of a doctor. Residents must be allowed to take part in desired activities, including Resident Councils. Privacy must be allowed and communication rights cannot be limited.

Complaints directed toward the staff or the nursing home must be addressed. The facility may not interfere with or retaliate against efforts to speak with a rights advocate, talk with an attorney or ombudsman or file a formal outside complaint.

A resident has the right to see his or her own medical records and take part in health care decisions. Nursing homes must honor a resident's refusal of medication and treatment. Proper notice and reasons must be given before residents are transferred or discharged.

Residents may not be subject to restraints, isolation or any form of abuse. A facility and members of a nursing home staff may be held liable in civil claims for neglect or other harm to residents.

Source: The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, "Residents' Rights: An Overview" Dec. 03, 2014

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