Nursing homes are required, within 21 days of your admission, to carefully assess your needs and create a written plan of care for you. You should be an active participant in the creation of this plan.

The goal should be to help you stay as independent as possible. You should read over the plan and make sure that you understand and agree with it. You may also want to discuss it with your doctor to make sure it meets all of your medical needs.

You should also know your rights. When you enter a nursing home, you retain all of your rights as a United States citizen. You also have specific rights as outlined by the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, which serves to protect the dignity and self-determination of nursing home residents. By this Act, you have the right to

  • participate in the plan of care process;
  • join with other residents or other people within or outside the facility to ask for improvements in patient care;
  • make independent personal decisions and be informed about available choices;
  • appeal any discharge or transfer notices;
  • participate in your facility’s residence council;
  • share a room with a spouse, partner or relative if they are also a resident of the facility;
  • communicate privately with anyone you choose;
  • send and receive personal mail unopened;
  • meet and participate with religious, social and community groups;
  • be encouraged and assisted in exercising your rights as a citizen without fear of interference or discrimination for your actions;
  • appoint a representative as your advocate who will be informed of your condition and care;
  • be free from physical and chemical restraints (drugs) imposed for purposes of discipline or convenience, and not required to treat your medical symptoms.

Residents’ rights should be posted in a prominent place in the facility.

If you have concerns about your facility, you can contact your state’s long-term care ombudsmen. An ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, and assisted living. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are trained to resolve problems.