We all hope and expect that as family members age, they are cared for with the love, attentiveness, and respect they deserve. If their needs extend beyond what families can provide at home, care usually falls to a nursing home provider. Thankfully in Pennsylvania there are nursing home laws that require a standard of care for all nursing home programs to follow. If you have an elderly family member living in a nursing home, it is essential that you understand these standards and your loved one’s rights, as well as what to do if you believe those rights have been violated.
Elderly, sick, or mentally ill family members are among the most vulnerable in our population, because often their physical and mental faculties are compromised. Unfortunately, some nursing homes take advantage of residents’ vulnerabilities, while others are so understaffed that their residents’ needs are neglected. According to the National Council on Aging, at least one in ten Americans aged 60+ has experienced some form of elder abuse.
Pennsylvania’s Standard of Care
Pennsylvania nursing home laws provide basic standards that all long-term care facilities must follow in order to remain active. These laws protect families from receiving substandard and insufficient care. The law includes legal guidelines for dietary services, nursing and physician services, dental care, and social services. Basic criteria that must be met in Pennsylvania nursing homes are as follows:
- Staffing – Basic ratios of staff to patients must be adhered to. For example, a nursing home that has fewer than 60 residents must have at least one full time RN or LPN on duty at all times, day and night. According to the Nursing Home Abuse Guide, understaffing is a major cause of elder abuse.
- Dietary Services – All patients’ dietary needs must be met. There must be a dietician supervising meal planning, and menus must be available at least two weeks in advance. Meals must be prepared hygienically.
- Intake Assessment – All residents are entitled to an assessment by the facility’s physician within 14 days of arrival at the facility. The physician must review the patient’s information and provide a plan for rehabilitation if applicable.
- Dental Care – Residents have the right to regular dental care and emergency dental care when needed.
- Social Services – Social services must be available to all residents, and larger facilities must staff a full time social worker.
Residents and all who are caring for them must have access to the resident’s care plan. Residents have the right to help create their plan.
PA Nursing Home Laws and the Rights of Residents
It is essential when choosing a nursing home that families thoroughly and carefully research potential facilities to ensure that their loved one will be cared for properly. Once the family member is in a facility, it is up to the family to maintain a certain degree of vigilance.
In Pennsylvania, residents of nursing homes have basic rights under nursing home laws. These rights include the following:
- Residents must be informed of their medical conditions.
- Residents must be informed of all services and/or charges they receive.
- Residents must be informed in writing of the policies and procedures of their facility.
- Restraints are only allowed if deemed medically necessary by a physician.
- Residents have the right to manage their own finances.
- Residents may choose their own doctor and pharmacy.
- Residents are allowed to refuse treatment.
- Residents may keep and use their own clothing and possessions.
- Residents’ privacy and dignity must be respected.
- Residents may voice objections or concerns without fear of retribution from the nursing home.
- Residents may have family and friends visit.
- Residents may only be discharged for medical reasons, if the facility closes, if their welfare is endangered or they endanger the welfare of other residents, or if they are unable to pay for the care.
How to Report Suspected Elder Abuse
If you suspect that a loved one is being abused in a nursing care facility, do not hesitate to take action. Sadly, there are many types of abuse that nursing home residents could be subject to, including emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, or neglect. Some warning signs include:
- Weight loss
- Bruising or broken bones
- Unusual withdrawals from any account
- Increased confusion
- Unsanitary living conditions
- Improperly administered medications
Pennsylvania has a 24-hour hotline that you can call to anonymously report your suspicions of abuse: 1 (800) 490-8505. As a reporter of abuse you are protected from retaliation and criminal prosecution.
Trusted Advocates for Nursing Home Abuse Victims
Making the heart-wrenching decision to place your loved one in a nursing home is very difficult. If you believe your elderly family member has been subjected to abuse in a nursing care facility, it is essential that you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to support you. The attorneys at Donaghue & Labrum are experts in the field of nursing home laws and abuse, and will work tirelessly for justice for your family.
Donaghue & Labrum attorneys will support you throughout the legal process, fighting for the compensation you deserve. We have served the Greater Philadelphia Area for over 25 years and have a proven track record in nursing home abuse cases. Call us today to set up a consultation in our Media or West Chester offices.