Exercising Family Members Rights in New York Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Communities

If you have a relative or close friend in a nursing home, your involvement is crucial to that person’s care.  The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act guarantees families of nursing home residents a number of important rights designed to enhance your loved one’s stay at the facility.  But while your participation is very valuable, it is essential to remember that your role as family member is always to communicate your loved one’s needs and preferences to nursing home staff.  You may not always agree with a loved one’s wishes, but it is that person’s needs and desires that must be respected.

What is a Family Council?

One of the best ways to exercise your rights as a family member is by joining a Family Council.  Within the facility, a family council is a vehicle for families to express their concerns about resident care and advocate for improvements.  Close friends of residents are also encouraged to participate in overseeing the resident’s care.  Facilities certified for Medicare and Medicaid must provide the following:

  • The right to meet in the facility with families of other residents.
  • Private space for meetings.
  • Staff or visitor attendance at meetings by invitation of the council.
  • A designated staff member responsible for providing assistance to the group and responding to its written requests.
  • Prompt response to resident and family member grievances and recommendations concerning the nursing home’s policies and practices regarding resident care.

What if the Facility Has No Family Council?

If your friend’s or relative’s nursing home has no family council and you are interested in forming one, contact your local Long Term Care Ombudsman at http://www.ltcombudsman.org/ombudsman.  Even without a family council, family members still have many rights and responsibilities concerning the care of the resident.

Essentials of Family Involvement

Nursing home residents benefit most when family members participate in the following aspects of their care:

  • Resident Assessment.  Within 14 days of a resident’s admission, nursing homes gather information about the resident’s health, physical and mental functioning, relationships, habits and activities.  Information provided by family members during the assessment can be useful to assist staff in getting to know the resident.
  • Care Plan.  Within 7 days of the initial assessment, an interdisciplinary team meets to devise an individualized care plan for the resident.  The team generally includes an admitting physician, nurse, nurse aide, dietary and activities staff, and a social worker.  Family members can provide critical input to the team.  In addition, families are entitled to participate in regular care plan review conferences to make sure that the plan is working.
  • Visiting.  Visits from family members are vital to the resident’s well being.  They also provide opportunities to look for changes in your loved one’s health and mental status.
  • Getting to Know Staff.  Knowing the names and roles of facility staff can go a long way toward enhancing your loved one’s care.  Developing a relationship with the Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA’s) is especially helpful because they provide most of the hands-on care.
  • Advocacy.  Document and report problems to facility staff as soon as they arise.  If this does not help, contact staff supervisors in writing and request a meeting.  Be clear, confident, assertive but respectful in communicating your concerns.  If you are not satisfied with the facility’s response, your local ombudsman can also advocate on the resident’s behalf.

Do you want to be certain your relative or loved one is getting the best possible care? If you have questions concerning your family member rights to enhance nursing home care for your loved one, contact the New York elder abuse law Attorneys at The Orlow Firm.

Personal Injury Attorneys Helping You Exercise Your Family Member Rights in New York Nursing Homes.

Family members are the primary advocates for loved ones in a nursing home.  If you have further questions about your rights as a family member, the attorneys at the Orlow Firm are ready to assist you.