What Rights Do Nursing Home Residents Have in Pennsylvania

nurse helping senior old elderly man

When families make the difficult decision to place an aging relative in a care facility,  it is because they are hoping to provide a safer, more comfortable environment than would be possible at home. Nursing homes in Pennsylvania are closely regulated and held up to high standards of care; however, serious abuse still happens and can lead to heartbreaking consequences. 

Discovering or suspecting that a family member is being mistreated in a nursing home is a distressing experience, especially when it affects someone unable to advocate for themselves. Most families struggle with what to do next and how to intervene effectively, including how to navigate the legal system. 

The Legal and Ethical Rights of Nursing Home Residents in Pennsylvania

Federal and state laws are designed to protect the dignity and well-being of nursing home residents as well as hold negligent caregivers accountable. On the federal level, nursing homes in the United States have to meet specific quality-of-life standards, including: 

  • Freedom from abuse and neglect: Includes verbal, sexual, physical, and mental abuse, including the “passive neglect” of ignoring their basic needs.
  • Visitation and contact: The right to have visits from friends, family, and service providers during reasonable hours, as well as unrestricted communication with phone calls and emails.
  • Privacy: Nursing homes must respect the privacy needs of their residents, especially during medical treatments and personal care activities like bathing.
  • Medical consent: Residents can make decisions about their medical care, including the right to refuse medications or treatments.
  • Dignity: The right to be treated with consideration, respect, and dignity, which is a broad standard that covers everything from making choices about their daily routine to not being placed under physical or chemical restraints unless medically necessary.

Along with enforcing federal laws, Pennsylvania has its own regulations to further protect the vulnerable older adults living in nursing homes. Some of these rights include: 

  • Freedom to complain: Residents have the right to express their problems or concerns without fear of retaliation, and nursing homes in Pennsylvania are required to have formal procedures for resolving complaints.
  • Financial independence: The right to either manage their own finances or appoint someone they trust to do it for them without intervention from the facility.
  • Medical information: Pennsylvania law mandates that nursing homes inform residents of their medical conditions honestly, including any changes made to their care. Residents and authorized representatives also have the right to access all their medical records. 

These standards serve as the cornerstone for providing respectful treatment in nursing homes and protecting vulnerable adults from abuse. Pennsylvania law also requires these rights to be explained to residents during the facility’s admissions process as well as outlined in a document they have to sign. If you suspect that a nursing home in Pennsylvania is failing to provide a safe and dignified environment, it is critical to take immediate action to protect your loved one and hold the facility accountable. 

Common Rights Violations Nursing Residents Suffer

No family wants to think that their loved one could be suffering abuse or neglect in a place that promised to keep them safe. Unfortunately, these heartbreaking situations happen far too often, often due to issues like being understaffed or hiring unqualified workers. Some of the common forms of abuse that can happen in nursing homes include: 

  • Physical abuse: This could range from hitting to improper use of restraints.
  • Emotional abuse: Staff members who are verbally aggressive and disrespectful or, alternately, purposefully ignoring the resident.
  • Neglecting basic needs: Failure to meet essential needs like food, clean clothes, or medical attention. The warning signs might include malnourishment, poor hygiene, or untreated medical issues. 

Nursing home negligence can result in very severe consequences for the resident’s health or well-being, such as developing life-threatening bed sores due to poor hygiene care. However, neglect can also be more subtle and is often uncovered because the resident’s family members notice potential red flags. If you suspect your loved one’s rights are being violated in a nursing home, some of the steps you can take to protect them include:

  • Call 911: If it is an emergency situation with the potential for immediate danger.
  • Report your concerns to the facility’s management: They are legally obligated to take your complaints seriously and try to rectify the situation.
  • File a formal complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging: This agency oversees nursing homes and also investigates reports of elder abuse.
  • Gather evidence: Holding facilities accountable will require documentation of the neglect, such as photos, medical records, or taking personal notes about specific incidents or observations.

If these violations are severe and have led to physical or emotional harm, a knowledgeable nursing home negligence lawyer can help you file a claim for compensation to cover your loved one’s damages and bring attention to the facility’s substandard care. 

Contact the Skilled Pennsylvania Nursing Home Negligence Lawyers at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., Today

At Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C., we have a long history of advocating for the rights and dignity of nursing home residents in Pennsylvania. Our attorneys use a wide range of resources to build a compelling case and prove nursing home negligence up to the standards required under Pennsylvania law, including expert testimony from medical professionals. We understand the deeply personal nature of these cases, and we are committed to making a difference for our clients. 

If you suspect that a family member is suffering from abuse or neglect in a Pennsylvania nursing home, reach out to the RGSG team for skilled advocacy throughout the entire legal process. You can discuss your case with our nursing negligence lawyers by calling (215) 822-7575 or completing our contact form.