Federal Regulations on Nursing Homes Undergo Substantial Overhaul

Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have recently benefitted from numerous important improvements in their rights and protections under federal law. The Department of Health and Human Services has recently enacted numerous new rules that will provide substantial changes to the operations of all nursing homes that receive federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid, affecting the approximately 1.4 million Americans who live in nursing homes.

The newly-enacted rules represent the most substantial changes to the federal rules governing nursing homes in 25 years. The changes are meant to make care in nursing homes more "person-centered." Robyn Grant, the director of resident advocacy group Consumer Voice, stated, "[w]ith proper implementation and enforcement, this could really transform a resident's experience of a nursing home." The entire slate of new rules will be enacted in multiple phases. The rules that have already entered into force include:

The right to make more choices regarding meals, housing, and visitors: Nursing home residents will now have a right to make requests of the kitchen outside of meal times, requesting snacks or meals at non-traditional times. Additionally, residents will have the right to choose their own roommates. These choices could include same-sex partners or siblings. Residents can also have visitors at any time of the day or night, provided that the visit does not in any way infringe on another resident's rights.

Revised abuse protections: Financial exploitation will now be included as a form of nursing home abuse under the rules. Nursing homes may no longer hire licensed professional staff members who have been disciplined previously for committing abuse, mistreatment, or financial exploitation

Greater training requirements: Nursing home staff will now need to undergo training on elder abuse prevention and on caring for residents with dementia.

Involuntary discharge safeguards: When a resident is being threatened with discharge for failure to pay, that resident cannot be removed if they have a pending application for Medicaid or some other form of insurance. Additionally, if the resident has appealed a decision to discharge them, they cannot be removed until after the appeal has been resolved.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of nursing home abuse in Kentucky, find out if you may have a claim for damages based on this abuse by contacting the compassionate and knowledgeable Lexington personal injury lawyers at O'Brien Batten & Kirtley, PLLC for a consultation, at 859-317-2056.

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