The cry of a loved one, echoing through empty halls is mind-boggling! That
is what I encountered last night visiting my great aunt. "Help...Help,” she
gurgled in piercing hi toned cries, which shook my inner soul.
We came across her clutching the 'nurse call' button, blinking red,
unattended. This at one of the most upscale nursing homes in New Jersey!
She was in great pain and it took my cousin and I five minutes to find a
nurse. The indignity, the abuse, the utter disregard for simple humanity...
Then my great aunt, victim of a debilitating stroke, told of being
forced into a luke warm-cold shower, in excruciating pain. Simply put, can
one be forced to take a shower; is the dignity and control of your own
body up for grabs? What are your rights in a nursing home?
First you can say no to a shower, and request a sponge or towel bath.
Second, you must be treated with simple human dignity at ALL times, as
codified under New Jersey.
The New Jersey legislature has addressed this issue, codified under
rule New Jersey Statutes 30:13-5: Rights of nursing home residents.
The law states:
“5.Every resident of a nursing home shall:
a.Have the right to manage his own financial affairs unless he or his
guardian authorizes the administrator of the nursing home to manage such
resident's financial affairs. Such authorization shall be in writing and
shall be attested by a witness that is unconnected with the nursing home,
its operations, its staff personnel and the administrator thereof, in any
b.Have the right to wear his own clothing. If clothing is provided to the
resident by the nursing home, it shall be of a proper fit.
c.Have the right to retain and use his personal property in his immediate
living quarters, unless the nursing home can demonstrate that it is unsafe
or impractical to do so.
d.Have the right to receive and send unopened correspondence and, upon
request, to obtain assistance in the reading and writing of such
e.Have the right to unaccompanied access to a telephone at a reasonable
hour, including the right to a private phone at the resident's expense.
f.Have the right to privacy.
g.Have the right to retain the services of his own personal physician at his
own expense or under a health care plan. Every resident shall have the right
to obtain from his own physician or the physician attached to the nursing
home complete and current information concerning his medical diagnosis,
treatment and prognosis in terms and language the resident can reasonably be
expected to understand, except when the physician deems it medically
inadvisable to give such information to the resident and records the reason
for such decision in the resident's medical record. In such a case, the
physician shall inform the resident's next-of-kin or guardian. The resident
shall be afforded the opportunity to participate in the planning of his
total care and medical treatment to the extent that his condition permits. A
resident shall have the right to refuse treatment. A resident shall have the
right to refuse to participate in experimental research, but if he chooses
to participate, his informed written consent must be obtained. Every
resident shall have the right to confidentiality and privacy concerning his
medical condition and treatment, except that records concerning said medical
condition and treatment may be disclosed to another nursing home or health
care facility on transfer, or as required by law or third-party payment
h.Have the right to unrestricted communication, including personal
visitation with any persons of his choice, at any reasonable hour.
i.Have the right to present grievances on behalf of himself or others to the
nursing home administrator, State governmental agencies or other persons
without threat of discharge or reprisal in any form or manner whatsoever.
The administrator shall provide all residents or their guardians with the
name, address, and telephone number of the appropriate State governmental
office where complaints may be lodged. Such telephone number shall be posted
in a conspicuous place near every public telephone in the nursing home.
j.Have the right to a safe and decent living environment and considerate and
respectful care that recognizes the dignity and individuality of the
resident, including the right to expect and receive appropriate assessment,
management and treatment of pain as an integral component of that person's
care consistent with sound nursing and medical practices.
k.Have the right to refuse to perform services for the nursing home that are
not included for therapeutic purposes in his plan of care as recorded in his
medical record by his physician.
l.Have the right to reasonable opportunity for interaction with members of
the opposite sex. If married, the resident shall enjoy reasonable privacy in
visits by his spouse and, if both are residents of the nursing home, they
shall be afforded the opportunity, where feasible, to...
Any nursing home resident may discharge himself from a nursing home upon
presentation of a written release and if the resident is an adjudicated
mental incompetent, upon the written consent of his guardian. In such case,
the nursing home is free from any responsibility for the resident upon his
release. When a nursing home wishes to transfer or discharge a competent or
an adjudicated mental incompetent resident on a nonemergency basis, it may
do so for medical reasons or for his welfare or that of other residents upon
receiving a written order from the attending physician, or for nonpayment of
The warehousing of human beings, in the modern nursing home, has
the earmarks of a factory for discarded souls; where basic human dignity
and rights are ignored, thru happenstance or simple negligence. Without an advocate you are LOST!
Maybe not even the law can address this problem adequately…
Jay H Bernstein Jan. 9th, 2011.