In 1965 federal law enabled the federal government to license nursing homes, under two categories; skilled nursing homes and intermediate care facilities that required less medical care and more personal care.  In 1980 Congress enacted the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act which covered any state facility or institution that provides nursing, intermediate or long term care that is residential in nature or which has custody over the residents.  Soon after Congress investigated larger issues involving the quality of life and services provided, or the lack thereof, provided in short, intermediate and long term care facilities.  Part of that investigation included a request for a comprehensive study on the matter.  By 1986 the Institute of Medicine published an exhaustive investigation of nursing homes in the United States.  By 1987, Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Act.  The animating factor of the Act was to insure that all nursing home residents receive care to help them achieve their best level of mental, emotional and physical care.


Congress required that each resident receive assessments at set intervals, an individualized care plan, nursing services, rehabilitation services if required, pharmaceutical services and social welfare services.  You also have the right to be free of both chemical and physical restraints for disciplinary purposes, the right to updates on your health status in plain language that you can understand, the right to privacy, private property and the ability to see visitors at reasonable hours, posted by the management, and to leave the facility, provided it is medically permissible.  Being in America, the right to organize and join family and resident councils was also insured.  The Act also created a state certification process where it must survey residents at least once every 15 months regarding many issues.  The sanctions are largely geared towards rehabilitating the potentially offending facility, although there is a possibility of civil fines, reimbursement of federal monies and potential ineligibility for future federal monies. Finally, Congress created a “Resident’s Bill of Rights”.


       New York is one of a handful of states that supplemented the Federal guarantee of such minimum rights.  New York has its own Nursing Home Resident Bill of Rights, which requires that each resident has the right to their diet choice, whether medical or religious in nature, respected, as well as  have access to dental care and other professional services that are medically necessary.  In addition, New York has a robust enforcement arm in the New York Department of Health which insures all rights, under both state and federal law, are complied with.  The New York Department of Health also has a great consumer education tool which enables future potential residents to find any licensed nursing home facility in the state, compare and contrast facilities, the ability to investigate previously issued statements of deficiency issued to specific facilities and general information and advice on ways to pick an appropriate facility.

       To insure the full extent of all of your rights at any facility in New York are protected a consultation with an experienced elder law attorney is needed.

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