Families who need to place a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility undertake a significant burden as they try to decide which facility is right for their relative or friend. Elder abuse is far too common throughout the country, and the complex agreements between nursing homes and their clients can be difficult to understand and manage. Recently, however, new federal regulations were introduced that are designed to improve a patient’s understanding of their care while also giving them more control over their treatment plan.

The new rules have been applauded by advocacy groups, who believe that patients deserve to be more involved in the process of creating a treatment plan and making their own choices during their stay. There is hope that these new rules will help further protect patients who are residing in assistant living care facilities, and allow them to advocate for themselves in this sometimes vulnerable setting.

According to an article published in the Washington Post, these are some of the changes that nursing home residents and their family members can expect as a result of the new rules:

  • Nursing home residents will enjoy a more home-like atmosphere with an increased number of freedoms. For example, patients at assisted living facilities will now be able to select from an array of snacks and meals at non-traditional times. This allows them to feel more comfortable in their new surroundings, knowing that they can have a snack or a light meal even if it is not the scheduled time for everyone to eat. In addition, residents now have the ability to select their own roommates if they are not living in a private room. This also helps to improve their comfort and security in their surroundings, as they can live with an individual who is more than just a roommate but also a friend.
  • Processes and documentation for grievances will be improved. Under the new rules, nursing home facilities are required to have a staff person dedicated solely to processing complaints and filing grievances against the facility. All grievances must now be completed in writing, in order to better document these occurrences and improve the results after the fact. This allows nursing home residents to feel confident in their surroundings, knowing that if something happens that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened, they have an advocate within the facility that they can approach.
  • There will be an expanded definition of abuse, increasing an individual’s power to protect themselves. Previously, abuse was limited to physical abuse or emotional abuse. However, the new rules require nursing homes to abide by a broader definition of abuse, which includes financial abuse. In addition, these facilities are now prohibited from hiring any candidate for any position who has been convicted of some form of abuse of residents in a previous facility.
  • Staffing levels will be improved in order to better meet the needs of patients. While industry advocacy groups were disappointed that the rules fell short of requiring a specific number of medical professionals be employed at each facility, the rules do now require that all staff members are qualified to meet the needs of the residents who live there. The rules state that staffing levels must be high enough in order to meet the needs of all residents in the facility, and that all staff members must also be highly-skilled in order to adequately meet those needs. New training requirements have been put in place in order to improve overall patient care and prevent abuse.

These rules certainly provide a ray of hope for patients and their families who are faced with the important decision of choosing a long-term care facility. However, it’s important to remember that abuse can and still does exist in many of these facilities. If you feel that someone you love is in need of an advocate, or you want to improve your understanding of an agreement with a nursing home facility, then the time is now to contact a qualified attorney who understands elder abuse laws and specializes in personal injury law. To find out more information, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.