Nursing home residents have a right to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their physical or mental limitations. This means they must be given the ability to make decisions that allow for as much independence as possible. Part of the ability to make daily decisions involves being able to see visitors.
Setting a Reasonable Visitation Policy
Nursing homes must allow residents to receive visitors, but they do not necessarily have to allow people into the facility 24/7. They are allowed to set reasonable visiting hours, so guests do not interrupt the ability of the staff to perform essential care tasks. An exception to a visiting hours policy is made for registered medical personnel, who must be allowed access to a resident at any time.
Choice of Visitors
The law states that residents must be allowed to choose who they wish to see as visitors. This includes family members as well as personal friends and professionals such as lawyers or social workers.
Residents can add or withdraw consent for visitors at any given time. The nursing home can't interfere with the resident's choice of visitors unless there is evidence that a visitor poses a threat to staff or other occupants of the faculty. A verbal disagreement between parties is not evidence of a threat, however.
If a resident does not wish to see a certain person, such as an estranged family member, he can't be forced to allow that person into the facility. The nursing home must respect the resident's decision.
If a resident has a legal guardian, the guardian also has the authority to make visitation requests. If appropriate, the guardian may choose to deny visitation to someone he believes will try to harm or take advantage of the resident.
Residents have a right to privacy when speaking with visitors. They do not need to have a nurse or other staff member present during visitation.
Roommate Rights During Visitation
Many residents in a nursing home have a roommate. Sharing a room does not affect a resident's right to receive visitors. However, a resident may be asked to meet visitors in an alternative area to avoid disturbing a roommate who is sleeping or ill.
Visitor Refusal and Abuse
If you are suddenly denied access to visit a loved one, this may be a sign of nursing home abuse. For example:
- Hiding evidence of abuse. A facility may try to restrict visitors to prevent family members and friends from seeing signs of neglect such as bed sores, cuts, bruises, or weight loss.
- Minimizing effects of understaffing. A nursing home that is short staffed and cutting corners on patient care may try to restrict visitors to avoid alerting family members or friends to the problem.
- Ignoring a poorly maintained facility. If there are problems with a poorly maintained facility itself or maintenance issues, visitation denial may be to avoid having family members demand that these issues be addressed.
- Isolating or punishing residents. Denial of visitation rights may be used as a means to isolate a vulnerable elderly person, thus making him less likely to protest further abusive treatment.
When you suspect your loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse, the first step is to notify the nursing home administrator. The administrative office is required to investigate your complaint and report it the appropriate state authority. However, if you don't feel your complaint is being taken seriously, you can contact Adult Protective Services or the Office of Aging in your area in addition to retaining the services of an attorney.
Compensation for Nursing Home Abuse
Victims of nursing home abuse are entitled to compensation for medical expenses as well as pain and suffering. However, Medicaid or Medicare may be entitled to a percentage of any funds recovered in a settlement if these programs were used to pay for nursing home care.
To learn more about protecting a resident's rights in a nursing home abuse case, please call to schedule a free, no-obligation case review with one of the experienced attorneys at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault. Appointments are available at six convenient office locations.