Exercising the rights of Raleigh nursing home patients

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Nursing homes provide temporary rehabilitative care for Raleigh patients discharged from hospitals. More commonly, residents of over 400 nursing homes in North Carolina are older individuals who require permanent, round-the-clock care and medical services. Depending on circumstances, the long-term move to a nursing home can be sudden, unsettling and filled with questions such as "What rights does a nursing home resident have?"

North Carolina has established a Bill of Rights for Nursing Home Residents, which outlines the duties nursing homes have toward the people under their care. Among other provisions, nursing home residents have the right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be free of nursing home neglect and abuse. Nursing homes may not retaliate in any way against residents with complaints about the treatment they receive.

A separate Long Term Care Ombudsman Program advocates for nursing home residents and their families to resolve financial, medical and personal problems with health care service providers. Concerns may arise over billing issues, drug intake or the resident's hygienic, nutritional or personal treatment by staff members. Regulatory agencies sometimes get involved, when problems remain in dispute or fall outside the reach of the Ombudsman program.

The Ombudsman Program additionally supplies information for relatives trying to decide which nursing home is the best fit for a family member. Program representatives can detail the services each nursing home offers and show the facility's history of complaints or violations, if any. The program also offers guidance for applicants for Medicaid or Medicare programs.

Each nursing home must be state licensed and certified and, to qualify for reimbursement from federal government programs, must meet additional standards for Medicaid and Medicare. Complaints about North Carolina nursing home violations are directed through the state Division of Health Service Regulation. Along with use of the Ombudsman program, family members sometimes also choose to reach out to an attorney when elder abuse is suspected.

Source: North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services, "North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services: Nursing Homes" Aug. 10, 2014