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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 and 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.









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

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!

*NEW* Residents' Rights Fact Sheets

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National Residents' Rights Month

October is “Residents’ Rights Month,” an annual event designated by Consumer Voice to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities. It is an opportunity to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect, and rights of each resident.

Residents’ Rights Month is a time for staff, families, ombudsmen, residents and other advocates to focus on resident-directed care and emphasizing the self-determination, choice, and quality of life of each resident.  

  • 2023 - Amplify Our Voices
  • 2022 - Inspiring Unity within Our Community
  • 2021 - Reclaiming My Rights, My Home, My Life
  • 2020 - Connection Matters
  • 2019 - Stand for Quality
  • 2018 - Speak Up: Know Your Rights and How To Use Them
  • 2017 - It's All About Me: My Life, My Care, My Choices
  • 2016 - My Vote Matters
  • 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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Resources Produced by NORC

Residents’ Rights and the LGBT Community: Know Your Rights as a Nursing Home Resident (September 2018)
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.

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Resources Produced by Consumer Voice

Balancing Privacy & Protection: Surveillance Cameras in Nursing Home Residents' Rooms (September 2017)

Download the webinar PowerPoint slides .

Please click on the resources below to determine if utilizing a surveillance camera is right for you and to view various state laws concerning the use of surveillance cameras.

State Laws:


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. 

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

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. 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, brochure 1 and brochure 2.

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


Residents' Rights Training

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


Ombudsman Program Examples

View Ombudsman program examples on residents' rights


Information to Share with Consumers

Residents' Rights: Your Life, Your Care, Your Choices

Residents' Rights Fact Sheets

Fact Sheet - Residents’ Rights: An Overview

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

Residents’ Rights and the LGBT Community

My Personal Directions for Quality Living Forms
This form can be used by consumers to record their personal preferences and information about themselves in case they need long-term care services in their home or in a long-term care community in the future. The information in this form may provide some help in understanding residents and help when providing their care. 

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View archive here

Older Versions of the Residents' Rights

Massachusetts Residents' Rights Posters

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

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

Tips for Holiday Visiting
This press release from Missouri offers tips for visiting family and friends during the holidays as well as inform nursing home residents and about the ombudsman program.

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

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


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