Nursing Home and Institutional Resident Rights Under the New Jersey Bill of Rights Laws
The title “Nursing Home Residents’ Bill of Rights” and “Assisted Living Bill of Rights” refers to laws concerning the responsibilities of nursing homes and the rights of nursing home residents”. N.J.S.A. 30:13-5 and as to assisted living residents, N.J.S.A. 26:2H-128.
Each of these laws set forth a listing of nearly 43 rights (assisted living) and 14 rights (nursing homes) to which residents of nursing homes are entitled. You can Google the statutes, but I list the highlights of the law further down on this page.
The rights established under these laws are intended to protect nursing home and assisted living patients from neglect and abuse while promoting reasonable freedom of choice, self-determination, and independence when appropriate. In some cases, a violation of these laws can form a basis for legal action against an institutional facility where residents are injured due to poor care, neglect, and/or abuse or a deprivation of rights. The laws not only define the rights of nursing home and assisted living residents but also establish responsibilities for nursing homes and assisted living residences. Importantly, the law specifies that the costs of enforcing patient rights under the laws can include attorneys’ fees if a facility is found to have violated the law.
Some of the more important rights of residents in New Jersey are summarized as follows:
1. The right to manage his/her own affairs
2. The right to privacy
3. The right to retain the services of his/her own personal physician
4. The right to obtain from his/her physician understandable information regarding his/her medical condition
5. The right to refuse treatment
6. The right to participate in the planning of his/her total care and treatment
7. The right to confidentiality and privacy concerning his/her treatment and medical condition
8. The right to unrestricted communication and visitation
9. The right to present grievances without fear of discharge or reprisal
10. The right to a safe and decent living environment
11. The right to considerate and respectful care
12. The right to not be deprived of any constitutional, civil or legal right
13. The right to be discharged or transferred by the nursing home only for certain permissible reasons set forth in the statute.
What Qualifies as a Nursing Home?
It should be noted that the specific definition of “nursing home” in the statute is quite liberal. It includes facilities besides nursing homes.
A “nursing home” means any institution, whether operated for profit or not, which maintains and operates facilities for extended medical and nursing treatment or care for two or more non-related individuals who are suffering from acute or chronic illness or injury, or are crippled, convalescent or infirm and are in need of such treatment or care on a continuing basis. Infirm is construed to mean that an individual needs assistance in bathing, dressing or some type of supervision.
This definition may be read to apply to residents of assisted living residences, residential health care facilities, adult family care, and other types of long-term care facilities.
What Qualifies as an Assisted Living Residence or Personal Care Home?
An assisted living facility also includes a comprehensive personal care home. Assisted living means a coordinated array of supportive personal and health services, available 24 hours a day and provided in a home-like surrounding to residents who have been assessed to need these services, including those who need formal long-term care. Assisted living is for people who need help with daily care but not as much help as nursing home residents.
Nursing Home and Assisted Living Institutional Rights Under New Jersey Bill of Rights Laws
The “Nursing Home Patient’s Bill of Rights” is not the only provision of the Act. Before listing resident’s rights, the Act lists the nine (9) different responsibilities of a nursing home, summarized as follows:
- Maintaining a complete record of all funds, personal property and possessions of a nursing home resident;
- Providing for the spiritual needs of residents;
- Admitting only that number of residents for which it can reasonably care;
- Ensuring that discrimination is prohibited;
- Prohibiting restraints except on physician orders;
- Ensuring that drugs not be used for punishment or the convenience of the staff;
- Permitting access to government representatives and legal services;
- Ensuring compliance with all state and federal laws, rules and regulations; and
- Providing a written statement of services provided by the nursing home.
The Bill of Rights for Residents of Assisted Living Residences is comprehensive. I have highlighted its provisions for you as follows:
You have the right:
- To receive a written statement of resident rights and any regulations established by the facility.
- To receive prior to, or at the time of admission, and afterward, an admission agreement that complies with all applicable laws and describes the services provided and the related charges.
- To receive upon request a written explanation of fee increases that are not related to increased services.
- To receive written documentation that fee increases based on a higher level of care.
- To receive written notice at least 30 days in advance when the facility requests your transfer or discharge. Notice shall include the name and contact information for the New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly.
- To be transferred or discharged only in accordance with the terms of the admission agreement and the law.
- To appeal an involuntary discharge as specified in department regulations.
- To receive personalized service and care.
- To receive a level of care and services that addresses your changing physical and psychosocial status.
- To choose a physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant.
- To obtain medications from a pharmacy of your choosing.
- To refuse to participate in experimental research.
- To refuse medication and treatment after you have been informed of the possible consequences of this decision.
- To receive pain management as needed.
- To be free from chemical and physical restraints.
- To be free from physical and mental abuse and neglect.
- To live in safe and clean conditions that do not admit more residents than can safely be accommodated.
- To not be arbitrarily and capriciously moved to a different bed or room.
- To be treated with respect, courtesy, consideration and dignity.
- To retain and exercise all constitutional, civil and legal rights to which you are entitled.
- To have daily access to the money and property that you have deposited with the facility, and to delegate this right of access to a representative.
- To receive a quarterly written account of your funds, the itemized property deposited with the facility for your use and all financial transactions with you, your next-of-kin, or guardian.
- To manage your own finances or delegate that responsibility.
- To make choices with respect to services and lifestyle.
- To have your independence and individuality.
- To participate, to the fullest extent that you are able, in planning your own medical treatment and care.
- To have (or not have) families’ and friends’ participation in service planning and implementation.
- To meet with any visitors of your choice, at any time, in accordance with facility policies and procedures.
- To request visits at any time by representatives of the religion of your choice and to attend outside religious services at your own expense.
- To take part in activities, and to meet with and participate in the activities of any social, religious, and community group.
- To participate in meals, recreation, and social activities without being subjected to discrimination based on age, race, religion, sex, marital status, nationality, or disability.
- To refuse to perform services for the facility.
- To keep and use your personal property.
- To wear your own clothes.
- To hire a private caregiver or companion at your expense and responsibility.
- To organize and participate in a resident council that presents residents’ concerns to the administrator of the facility.
- To voice complaints without fear of interference, discharge, reprisal, and obtain contact information about government agencies to which residents can complain and ask questions.
- To expect the facility to promptly investigate and try to resolve your concerns.
- To contact the Ombudsman to advocate on your behalf, free from discrimination or reprisal, if you feel any of your rights have been violated.
- To private and to have your personal information kept confidential.
- To reasonable opportunities for private and intimate physical and social interaction with other people.
- To have a private telephone in your living quarters at your own expense.
- To receive and send mail in unopened envelopes and the right to request and receive assistance in reading and writing correspondence.
Private Right of Action to Enforce Resident Bill of Rights
New Jersey law (under N.J.S.A. 30:13-8) and N.J.S.A. 26:2H-12-8 creates a private right to sue on the part of a resident, whose rights have been violated, as well as the Department of Health and Senior Services has been empowered to sue to enforce the Patient Bill of Rights.
Have questions or a case involving a NJ nursing home or assisted living, or a violation of a resident’s legal rights? If so, contact Fredrick P. Niemann, a NJ elder abuse law attorney toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He will sit and discuss your complaint(s) and help you evaluate whether an actionable case of elder abuse exists.
Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Elder Abuse Attorney
Bill of Rights for the NJ Elderly
RESIDENT RIGHTS UNDER NEW JERSEY LAW
THE NEW JERSEY BILL OF RIGHTS