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Residents Rights and Problem Solving in Nursing Homes

The best way to head off care-related problems in a nursing facility is to have regular contact with your loved one and the staff at the facility.

Residents Rights. People who live in nursing facilities have specific Residents Rights under federal and state law. Nursing home residents are protected by the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 or what is often called "OBRA 87." Some of the resident’s rights include:

    • To know of all the services and charges offered by the facility.
    • To be given notice of any involuntary transfer or discharge from the facility and the right to appeal that decision.
    • To voice concerns without fear of reprisal.
    • To be free from unnecessary physical and chemical (medications) restraints.
    • To communicate privately by telephone or in person with persons of the residents choice.
    • To keep and use the residents personal belongings as space permits.
    • The right to have intimate relations in private.

Problem Solving Techniques. The nursing facility is required to give the resident a complete list of residents rights upon admission to the facility. Although these rights are guaranteed by law, the quality of care your loved one receives will also depend on how the facility is managed. Two of the most important factors are adequate staffing and a social model of care that emphasizes a home-like, non-institutional feeling within the facility. The commitment to providing good care must start at the top with the administrator and the owners of the facility.

The best way to head off care-related problems in a nursing facility is to have regular contact with your loved one and the staff at the facility. Observe the routines in the facility so that you will know when something is a common practice or if it is something that happens only occasionally. If a problem arises, talk with the charge nurse on the unit where you loved one lives. Try to find the source of the problem together with the nursing facility staff, if possible. Be specific in your concerns, giving the time of day, date, or any other details you feel will be helpful. Approach the staff respectfully and give them an opportunity to help you.

If this approach does not work, that is, the same problem continues to occur or gets worse; it may be time to contact the Director of Nursing, the person in charge of nursing within the facility, or the facility administrator. These leaders are trained to be problem-solvers and should not respond defensively to reasonable questions and concerns.

If you feel the facility is not responding to your concerns, contact the local Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman. The LTC Ombudsman is an advocate usually employed by the local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) or other aging services organization. The LTC Ombudsman’s name and phone number are posted on posters within the facility, usually near the business offices with the other "official" notices. Call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 to locate the Ombudsman program serving your area. The LTC Ombudsman is there to assist you in problem solving about individual, as well as facility-wide, complaints and concerns.

If, after working through the chain of command within the facility, and after contacting the LTC Ombudsman, you feel problems are continuing, contact the State Agency on Licensing and Certification. The Agency is required to investigate complaints within a certain time and to complete a written report. As a last resort, you may need to consider taking legal action if you believe the harm or potential for harm to your loved one is serious.

For questions or concerns contact the Larimer County LTC Ombudsman, Larimer County Office on Aging (AAA) or 970.498.7750. Outside of Larimer County call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 to contact the AAA nearest you.

To contact Adult Protective Services in Larimer County:
Larimer County Department of Human Services, Senior & Disabled Programs

2555 Midpoint Drive, Suite F
Ft. Collins, CO 80525

(970) 498-7770
(970) 498-6455 Fax


Information courtesy of Elizabeth A. Kelly, Attorney/Mediator and Bill Beyers, Attorney at Law, Elder Care Network Participants. The information contained on this website is NOT a substitute for legal advice and no representations are made as to the accuracy of this information.

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David Fraser
Vitality Home Healthcare
1562 Taurus Court
Loveland, CO 80537

Home Care Services : Medical

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