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Residents' Rights

Residents’ Rights are guaranteed by the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self determination. Nursing homes must meet federal residents' rights requirements if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid. Some states have residents' rights in state law or regulation for nursing homes, licensed assisted living, adult care homes, and other board and care facilities. A person living in a long-term care facility maintains the same rights as an individual in the larger community.

View a Consumer Voice fact sheet on Residents' Rights.

Select on a below link to learn more about Residents' Rights.

What are Residents' Rights?

Residents' Rights Guarantee Quality of Life
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law requires each nursing home to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life of each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination.
All nursing homes are required "to provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care that… is initially prepared, with participation, to the extent practicable, of the resident, the resident's family, or legal representative." This means a resident should not decline in health or well-being as a result of the way a nursing facility provides care.

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law protects the following rights of nursing home residents:

The Right to Be Fully Informed of

  • Available services and the charges for each service
  • Facility rules and regulations, including a written copy of resident rights
  • Address and telephone number of the State Ombudsman and state survey agency
  • State survey reports and the nursing home’s plan of correction
  • Advance plans of a change in rooms or roommates
  • Assistance if a sensory impairment exists
  • Residents have a right to receive information in a language they understand (Spanish, Braille, etc.)

Right to Complain

  • Present grievances to staff or any other person, without fear of reprisal and with prompt efforts by the facility to resolve those grievances
  • To complain to the ombudsman program
  • To file a complaint with the state survey and certification agency

Right to Participate in One's Own Care

  • Receive adequate and appropriate care
  • Be informed of all changes in medical condition
  • Participate in their own assessment, care-planning, treatment, and discharge
  • Refuse medication and treatment
  • Refuse chemical and physical restraints
  • Review one's medical record
  • Be free from charge for services covered by Medicaid or Medicare

Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

  • Private and unrestricted communication with any person of their choice
  • During treatment and care of one's personal needs
  • Regarding medical, personal, or financial affairs

Rights During Transfers and Discharges

  • Remain in the nursing facility unless a transfer or discharge:
  • (a) is necessary to meet the resident’s welfare;
  • (b) is appropriate because the resident’s health has improved and s/he no longer requires nursing home care;
  • (c) is needed to protect the health and safety of other residents or staff;
  • (d) is required because the resident has failed, after reasonable notice, to pay the facility charge for an item or service provided at the resident’s request
  • Receive thirty-day notice of transfer or discharge which includes the reason, effective date, location to which the resident is transferred or discharged, the right to appeal, and the name, address, and telephone number of the state long-term care ombudsman
  • Safe transfer or discharge through sufficient preparation by the nursing home

Right to Dignity, Respect, and Freedom

  • To be treated with consideration, respect, and dignity
  • To be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints
  • To self-determination
  • Security of possessions

Right to Visits

  • By a resident’s personal physician and representatives from the state survey agency and ombudsman programs
  • By relatives, friends, and others of the residents' choosing
  • By organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services
  • Residents have the right to refuse visitors

Right to Make Independent Choices

  • Make personal decisions, such as what to wear and how to spend free time
  • Reasonable accommodation of one's needs and preferences
  • Choose a physician
  • Participate in community activities, both inside and outside the nursing home
  • Organize and participate in a Resident Council
  • Manage one's own financial affairs

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Residents' Rights in Other Languages

The Center is pleased offer Residents' Rights in the following languages, English, French, Hindu, Korean (Illinois specific, not federal version) Spanish and Russian (Illinois specific, not federal version). Select on the links below to access each version.

If you have a copy of Residents' Rights in a language not listed here and would like to share it with NORC, e-mail it to ombudcenter@theconsumervoice.org. Thank you!

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National Residents' Rights Month

Residents' Rights Month is an annual event designated by the Consumer Voice and is celebrated in October to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, sub acute units, assisted living, board and care and retirement communities. It is a time for celebration and recognition offering an opportunity for every facility to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident. The theme for Residents' Rights Month 2016 is, "My Vote Matters" with the goal of highlighting residents' right to vote and participate in the political process.

2016 Residents' Rights Month Packet of Materials

Each year, the Consumer Voice develops a packet to help you plan your Residents’ Rights events. The packet is completely downloadable and features ready-to-use items, including promotional materials, activities to celebrate Residents' Rights Month, training tools and resources. Check back as Residents' Rights Month packet materials become available.

Introduction & Overview

Promotional Materials

The Resident's Voice Challenge 2016

Consumer Voice is pleased to announce the 2016 Resident’s Voice Challenge!  Creative writing and artistic expression are meaningful and compelling ways to communicate the importance of residents’ rights and how these rights can be carried out in all long-term care settings.  

For this year’s Resident’s Voice Challenge, residents are encouraged to pick up their pens, dust off their type writers or use a computer to display their writing or artistic skills by submitting essays, poems, artwork, drawings, or videos related to the theme for Residents' Rights Month 2016 "My Vote Matters".

Entries submitted for the Resident’s Voice Challenge will be compiled and shared in a variety of formats.  Submissions may appear on the Consumer Voice website, be featured at the 2016 Annual Conference, be highlighted in our weekly e-newsletter - The Voice, or be used in additional forums. Every resident who submits an entry will receive a certificate for participating in the 2016 Resident’s Voice. 

Purchase a Resident's Voice Activity Toolkit!

1. Resident President

For residents and consumers: Pretend you are running for President and your platform is long-term care consumers’ rights.Create a campaign poster or write a stump speech (or record a video of you giving your stump speech).

Campaign posters are available for purchase in the Resident’s Voice Activity Toolkit or can be downloaded here.

Find specific instructions for this activity here.  For examples of completed Resident President posters, click here and here.

2. Most Memorable Election

Write an essay, create a poem, or express yourself artistically sharing the most memorable election in which you voted. 

3. What Would You Tell the Current Presidential Candidates?

Imagine you got a meeting with one of the current presidential candidates. Which candidate would you speak to and why? What types of questions would you ask them?

For more information and for submission guidelines, click here. Submissions are due by September 15, 2016.

Spread the word about the Resident's Voice Challenge with this flyer.

Email entries to info@theconsumervoice.org or mail entries to:

Consumer Voice
Attn: Resident's Voice
1001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 632
Washington, DC 20036

Photo and Video Release Form - All residents and consumers who share photo or video with Consumer Voice as a part of the Resident's Voice Challenge must complete and photo/video release.

Residents' Rights Month Activities

Residents' Rights Month is a time to offer residents an opportunity to participate in engaging activities.  Use the activities below to involve residents and staff members in sharing with the community.

Activities for Residents with staff and ombudsmen:

Activities for Staff and Ombudsmen:

Residents' Rights Month Products

Participate in Residents' Rights Month activities and show your support of long-term care consumers' voting rights with this year's Residents' Rights Month products!

Resident's Voice Challenge Activity Toolkit - Includes 25 Resident President posters (plus instructions), two large My Voice, My Vote, My Right posters and 50 My Vote Matters stickers - $35

Large 11" x 17" Posters - Pack of 2 - $10

Small 8.5" x 11" Posters - Pack of 25 - $15 

Stickers - Pack of 50 - $8 or Pack of 100 - $15

Click here for more information on Residents' Rights Month 2016

  • 2015 - CARE Matters
  • 2014 - Better Staffing: The Key to Better Care
  • 2013 - Speak Out Against Elder Abuse!
  • 2012 - My Voice, My Vote, My Right
  • 2011 - Welcome Home: Creating Connections Between Residents and the Community
  • 2010 - Defining Dining...It's About Me
  • 2009 - Hear Our Voice: Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities Speak Out About Residents' Rights
  • 2007 - Advancing Excellence: A Resident's Perspective on Quality
  • 2005 - Together We Can...Achieve Resident-Directed Care

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Trainings and Inservices

Thinking Outside the Box (of Wine): Alcohol Use in Long-Term Care Facilities (August 2013) 
This presentation prepared by the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program discusses residents' rights around alcohol use, risk considerations related to alcohol use, using the evaluation and care plan process to drive solutions to challenges with alcohol, and the use of root-cause analysis principles to problem solve.

Resident Rights Report Sheet for 2011

LTCF handout

Resident Rights 2011 training

Residents' Rights Inservice

Considerations Regarding the Needs of Long-Term Care Residents for Intimate Relationships and Sexual Activity – Carol Scott, Kansas City, MO: Center for Practical Bioethics.2007

Sexuality and Intimacy in LTC Facilities
Developed by Julie Button and Amy Panosh of the WI Board on Aging and LTC Ombudsman Program. Note that the consent piece of the presentation pertains only to WI case law. It is important that other states are aware of this and may need to do research on their consent laws in their state.

Guidelines for Resident Rights-Problem Solving Presentation (for up to 20 people) - A Tutorial for Ombudsmen

Guidelines for Large Group (30-150 staff) Resident Rights Presentation - A Tutorial for Ombudsmen

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ACL Guidance for Outreach and Providing Services for Holocaust Survivors (January 2017)
ACL created this guidance as a vehicle by which the Aging Services Network can build stronger connections to organizations and stakeholders providing care to Holocaust survivors, to enhance service capacity and quality.  The guidance examines the unique needs and challenges of serving Holocaust survivors, with a particular focus on mental and physical health, nutrition, transportation, caregiver support, outreach, legal and ombudsman services, with a foundation in person-centered, trauma-informed approaches.

Your Financial Rights In a Medicaid Certified Nursing Home (August 2016)

The Texas State Ombudsman Program developed these guides for consumers to highlight their rights regardless of how much they pay.

New Mexico State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Discusses Residents' Rights (November 2013)

Residents’ Rights and the LGBT Community: Know Your Rights as a Nursing Home Resident (October 2013)


This factsheet highlights federal residents' rights and nursing home requirements that may be of particular importance to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents and provides options for complaint resolution, information for reporting abuse and resources regarding long-term care and LGBT advocacy.

Memo to State Survey Agency Directors on Access and Visitation Rights in Long Term Care (LTC) Facilities (June 2013)

Technical Assistance Brief - Personal Property in Long-Term Care Facilities
Residents in long-term care facilities have the right to retain personal possessions and make their room as homelike as possible. While the size of the room and potential health and safety of other residents may need to be considered and result in limitations, a long-term care facility cannot ban the placement of personal property in a resident’s room. This TA Brief addresses the question of whether or not it is appropriate for a long-term care facility to restrict or ban personal property from appearing on the walls, floor or in other areas of the resident’s room.

Piecing Together Quality Long-Term Care - A Consumer's Guide to Choices and Advocacy 
This guide from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (the Consumer Voice) and accompanying fact sheets are designed for advocates and consumers who are currently receiving or who may in the future receive long-term services and supports in the community.  The purpose of these materials is to inform advocates and consumers about options for long-term services and supports, and to empower consumers - through education - to effectively advocate on their own behalf.

The “Put a STOP to Poor Care” brochure, produced by the Consumer Voice in collaboration with the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), includes indicators of quality care, warning signs, red flags of potential abuse, and advocacy tips to address concerns. Regardless of where an individual receives long-term care services and supports they are entitled to receive quality, person-centered care, and this brochure was designed to help consumers understand quality care, learn how to identify issues, and gain action steps to advocate for the care they need and deserve. Long-term care ombudsmen (LTCO) could distribute this brochure during their visits, use it as a training tool during in-service training for facility staff, and share it with members of Resident and Family Councils.

The brochure can be downloaded in different formats here and here.

Put a STOP to Poor Care Webinar

This Consumer Voice webinar was held in collaboration with the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) in order to provide a basic framework to help long-term care residents, their family members, and other advocates identify quality care and potential issues. Regardless of where an individual receives long-term care services and supports they are entitled to receive quality, person-centered care. The webinar presenters identify indicators of quality care and warning signs of poor care, provide communication tips, and share advocacy strategies to help consumers, family members, and others advocate for individualized care. Presenters also share available resources to assist in advocating for quality care and review the role of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) Program and how to seek assistance from the LTCO program.

The slides for this webinar can be downloaded as a PDF or as a PowerPoint

The Fine Art of Balancing Protection with Self Determination - Webinar (November 2015)

Sexuality and Aging Fact Sheet from Iowa LTCOP (December 2015)

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Ombudsman Best Practices

The CT LTCOP reported on the progress of the CT Statewide Coalition of Presidents of Resident Councils Executive Board. The State Ombudsman supports and facilitates the work of the Executive Board through regular meetings and conference calls, financial support to attend meetings in some instances and assistance with meetings with legislators and policy makers.  (2011)

District of Columbia
The DC LTCOP organized and hosted the first annual Leadership Conference for presidents of resident and family councils at local nursing home, and organized a forum for social workers of long-term care facilities addressing issues with the return of residents to their homes via home and community based services.  (2011)

The Iowa Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman received inquiries on a regular basis as to whether an attorney-in-fact, under a durable power of attorney for health care, can limit or deny visitation to a resident or tenant. As a result, OSLTCO developed a policy on visitation and access to residents after many concerns arose. The hope is that this policy will help inform and guide facilities, lawyers and other advocates on visitation rights, placing the focus on the resident. This policy has been shared with the survey entity, the protection and advocacy agency and NF/ALP associations. (2013)

The Mississippi program planned and organized its annual Snowflake Ball. Its mission is to provide a holiday outing for residents living in long-term care facilities.  (December 2011)

New Mexico
The New Mexico LTCOP worked with the provider community to support the Physical Restrain Free State Initiative. To be recognized as a Physical Restraint Free Facility, a facility must request that the Ombudsmen conduct a seven step site visit scheduled at a mutually agreeable time. If this site visit shows any physical restraint usage, the facility has to provide detailed information about each instance of use that demonstrates that the usage was consistent with the exceptions allowed for under the law. The New Mexico LTCOP expects to build a more positive relationship with the nursing home industry such that facility staff members learn to work with ombudsmen instead of against to promote resident rights and wishes. (2013)

Information to Share with Consumers

Residents’ Rights factsheet

Rights of Nursing Home Residents (English, French, Hindi, Spanish)

(Illinois) Rights of Nursing Home Residents (Korean, Russian)

2016 Residents’ Voice Challenge

Piecing Together Quality Long-Term Care - A Consumer's Guide to Choices and Advocacy

Residents’ Rights and the LGBT Community

(Texas) Your Financial Rights in A Medicaid Certified Nursing Home (English, Spanish)

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