Pennsylvania Residents' Rights

Pennsylvania Residents’ Rights

Did you know that the residents of Pennsylvania nursing homes have guaranteed legal rights?  In addition to federal requirements set forth in OBRA, or the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of ’87, the state of Pennsylvania has enacted resident rights laws that nursing homes must meet. There are two basic principles at the core of these special laws:

  • Facilities must prohibit the mistreatment and abuse of the resident.
  • Facilities must treat residents with dignity and respect.

Pennsylvania law requires that nursing homes develop and adhere to procedures regarding the rights and responsibilities of residents. Furthermore, facilities must make their residential rights policies readily available to both residents and members of the public.  These policies must include:

  • A written outline of the facility’s objectives.
  • A statement of its residents’ rights.

Let’s explore some of these basic rights in greater detail.  The more you understand about the rules homes must comply with, the more prepared you will be to address the situation if you suspect any mistreatment, neglect, or abuse.
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Legal Rights Guaranteed to Pennsylvania Nursing Home Residents

Listed below are some general rights provided to Pennsylvania nursing home residents.  For a more complete explanation of your rights, you can contact Pennsylvania’s ombudsman.  If you feel that a relative or loved ones rights have been violated, and as a result a resident has suffered injury or death contact an experienced nursing home malpractice attorney immediately.

  • Residents have the right to be treated with consideration, respect, and full recognition of dignity.

This encompasses the right to privacy, as well as the right to communicate and meet privately with friends, family members, and resident groups.  Your mail should arrive unopened, unless you request otherwise.  Residents should be treated with courtesy and privacy during private matters like bathing and toileting.  Staff should knock before entering a resident’s room.

  • Residents have the right to be informed of their medical condition and changes.

Residents are guaranteed the right to be informed of their medical conditions.

  • Residents have the right to know about services which they are charged.

Residents have the right to be informed verbally and in writing prior to, or at the time of admission, of services available in the facility and of charges covered and not covered by the per diem rate of the facility.  Residents must be given 30 days “reasonable notice” of advance charges.

  • Residents have the right to know how security deposit is used and/or returned. 

If a facility collects a security deposit, the contract must indicate how the deposit will be used, and the terms for the return of the money. A security deposit is not permitted for a resident receiving Medical Assistance.

  • Residents have the right to stay in the home absent specific conditions.

Residents cannot be forced to transfer from or be discharged from the facility in absence of medical reasons, protection of his or her welfare, protection of the welfare of other residents, or for nonpayment of stay.  A resident has the right to written notice 30 days in advance of a transfer or discharge.  Furthermore, the facility must inform the resident of its bed-hold policy prior to discharge.

  • Residents have the right to their medical records.

Facilities must provide medical records describing the resident’s needs, including lists of orders and medications, to another medical facility upon discharge or transfer.

  • Residents have the right to a safe and orderly transfer to another facility.

The facility is responsible for ensuring that appropriate arrangements are made for a safe and orderly transfer to an appropriate place that is capable of meeting the resident’s needs.

  • Residents have the right to exercise their rights as a citizen.

Residents may voice grievances and recommend changes in policies and services to the facility staff or to outside representatives.  A facility must post the Department’s Hot Line (800) 254-5164, the telephone number of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program located within the Local Area Agency on Aging, and the telephone number of the local Legal Services Program to which the resident may address grievances, in a prominent location and in a large-print, easy-to-read format.

  • Residents have the right to retain and use personal clothing and possessions as space permits.
  • Residents have the right not to be subject to experimental research.

If you have any questions about your or your loved one’s rights, contact The Nursing Home Injury Help Center for assistance.  We’re always here to help.
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What Are the Access Requirements for Pennsylvania Nursing Homes?

In addition to protecting basic legal rights for residents, Pennsylvania nursing homes must also comply with certain requirements.  For example, nursing home residents have the right to legal representation, or to visit with the representatives of the Department of Aging Ombudsman Program. However, any facility may limit access to a resident if there is any detriment to the care and well-being of that resident.
For the safety of residents, strangers entering a nursing home may not enter the living area of a resident without receiving that resident’s express permission.
For more information, please refer to The Pennsylvania Code, Title 28, Health and Safety.  You may also wish to read about the FNHRA, or Federal Nursing Home Reform Act.
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Filing a Lawsuit in Pennsylvania: What Plaintiffs Need to Know

Damage Caps

The term damages refers to the award a plaintiff wins in a settlement or successful lawsuit.  Damages may cover losses and expenses such as medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and funeral expenses in wrongful death claims.  In Pennsylvania, there are no damage caps on personal injury or medical malpractice awards.  In fact, a cap on medical malpractice awards is unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution.
However, there is an exception to this rule: the amount of damages may be capped if the defendant tortfeasor (i.e. a defendant who commits a tort, or the violation of a legal right) is the Commonwealth or a municipality.

Obeying the Statute of Limitations

In general, the Pennsylvania statute of limitations (i.e. legal deadline) on negligence claims for personal injury and wrongful death is two years.  The countdown begins from the date of death or injury.

Contingent Fee Agreements

In Pennsylvania, almost all claims for nursing home neglect and abuse that result in serious injury or wrongful death are taken on a contingent fee basis.  Under a contingent fee system, the lawyer agrees to accept a percentage of a settlement or award as opposed to billing the claimant on an hourly basis. When you work with The Nursing Home Injury Help Center, you won’t pay attorney’s fees unless we win compensation for you.

What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse or Neglect

If you’re worried about the standard of care at a Pennsylvania nursing home facility, call nursing home abuse attorney Brent Wieand at (215) 666-7777, or contact us online to set up a free and private case evaluation.
Brent handles a wide variety of wrongful death and personal injury claims, including bed sores, falls, malnutrition, dehydration, financial exploitation, medication errors, elopement, and sexual abuse.  He serves communities across Pennsylvania, including Berks County, Bucks County, Philadelphia, Dauphin County, Lancaster County, and Montgomery County.

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