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Patient Rights in Nursing Homes

Nursing home residents often require care beyond what family members can provide. Many have conditions that prevent them from living independently, and as such, nursing home residents are vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment.

The law provides specific patient rights in nursing homes. Knowing these rights could help if you or a loved one encounter a situation in a nursing home that seems unfair or improper. A knowledgeable attorney at Tittle & Perlmuter is available to further explain these rights and answer any questions you may have.

patient rights in nursing homes

The Law Defines Nursing Home Patient Rights

Both federal and state laws define the specific rights of patients residing in long-term care and skilled nursing facilities. The state law governing Ohio nursing homes, Ohio Revised Code §3721.13, mirrors federal law but adds some additional protections.

All patients in these facilities have the fundamental right to be free from physical, emotional, verbal, or financial mistreatment. They are entitled to respectful and courteous treatment that recognizes their dignity and individuality. Patients also have a right to clean surroundings, nutritious food in appropriate quantities, and adequate medical care. The law describes specific ways that nursing homes must provide these rights to their patients.

Personal Autonomy

State law gives nursing home residents the right to have their own clothing and a reasonable quantity of possessions in their room. Patients must be notified if they will be sharing a room or if the facility assigns them a new roommate. Patients who have not been adjudicated incompetent have the right to vote, and the facility must arrange for resident participation in elections. Residents may buy and use reasonable quantities of alcohol and tobacco products unless there is a medical prohibition on their use. They may go to bed and wake up when they choose.


Patients have the right to keep the door of their room closed and request that staff knock before entering. They are allowed private communication with all visitors at any reasonable time. Married residents are entitled to time alone with their spouses. Patients may have private phone calls and may send and receive sealed correspondence. Nursing home residents are entitled to the privacy of their medical records, and medical information may not be shared without the patient’s consent. Patients may name a sponsor to receive reports of changes in their health status.

Medical Decision-Making

Nursing home residents have the right to choose the staff physician and pharmacist who will be responsible for their care, and the facility must accommodate their choice if possible. They are entitled to participate in their care and make decisions about the care they receive to the extent they are capable. Patients have the right to refuse to participate in medical research without jeopardizing their care. They have the right to decline medical intervention and the freedom to choose hospice care.

Freedom from Chemical and Physical Restraints

Nursing homes may only use physical restraints or sedating drugs if there is a medical reason or to protect the patient from harming himself or others. If the staff imposes restraints in response to an emergency without physician authorization, the duration of the restraint must not exceed twelve hours. A physician must conduct an in-person examination before ordering chemical or physical restraints.

Financial Autonomy

Nursing home residents have the right to maintain control over their financial affairs to the extent they are capable of doing so. They have the right to review nursing home charges and examine their bill at least monthly. They have the right to an accounting of all their funds deposited at the facility, including receipts.

Take Action if a Facility Does Not Respect Patient Rights

If a nursing home is not affording a resident all the rights the law provides, the resident or a concerned loved one could discuss the issue with the home’s Administrator. If the conversation does not yield the desired results, a complaint to the Department of Health could be appropriate.

Speaking with a local attorney also could be helpful. A call or letter from a legal professional expressing concern about a resident’s treatment could spur a nursing home to change its practices.

Call an Attorney for Violations of Resident Rights

Our loved ones in nursing homes are vulnerable and may not be willing or able to advocate for themselves. If patient rights in nursing homes are not respected, family members should consult a dedicated attorney about their legal options.

At Tittle & Perlmuter, our legal team is here to help you protect your loved ones. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.