Residents' Rights

Residents' Rights Overview

Residents’ Rights are guaranteed by the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination. Nursing homes must meet federal residents' rights requirements if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid. Some states have residents' rights in state law or regulation for nursing homes, licensed assisted living, adult care homes, and other board and care facilities. A person living in a long-term care facility maintains the same rights as an individual in the larger community.

View a Consumer Voice fact sheet on Residents' Rights.

Select on a below link to learn more about Residents' Rights.

What are Residents' Rights?

Residents' Rights Guarantee Quality of Life
The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law requires each nursing home to care for its residents in a manner that promotes and enhances the quality of life of each resident, ensuring dignity, choice, and self-determination.
All nursing homes are required "to provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care that… is initially prepared, with participation, to the extent practicable, of the resident, the resident's family, or legal representative." This means a resident should not decline in health or well-being as a result of the way a nursing facility provides care.

The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law protects the following rights of nursing home residents:

The Right to Be Fully Informed of

  • Available services and the charges for each service
  • Facility rules and regulations, including a written copy of resident rights
  • Address and telephone number of the State Ombudsman and state survey agency
  • State survey reports and the nursing home’s plan of correction
  • Advance plans of a change in rooms or roommates
  • Assistance if a sensory impairment exists
  • Residents have a right to receive information in a language they understand (Spanish, Braille, etc.)

Right to Complain

  • Present grievances to staff or any other person, without fear of reprisal and with prompt efforts by the facility to resolve those grievances
  • To complain to the ombudsman program
  • To file a complaint with the state survey and certification agency

Right to Participate in One's Own Care

  • Receive adequate and appropriate care
  • Be informed of all changes in medical condition
  • Participate in their own assessment, care-planning, treatment, and discharge
  • Refuse medication and treatment
  • Refuse chemical and physical restraints
  • Review one's medical record
  • Be free from charge for services covered by Medicaid or Medicare

Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

  • Private and unrestricted communication with any person of their choice
  • During treatment and care of one's personal needs
  • Regarding medical, personal, or financial affairs

Rights During Transfers and Discharges

  • Remain in the nursing facility unless a transfer or discharge:
  • (a) is necessary to meet the resident’s welfare;
  • (b) is appropriate because the resident’s health has improved and s/he no longer requires nursing home care;
  • (c) is needed to protect the health and safety of other residents or staff;
  • (d) is required because the resident has failed, after reasonable notice, to pay the facility charge for an item or service provided at the resident’s request
  • Receive thirty-day notice of transfer or discharge which includes the reason, effective date, location to which the resident is transferred or discharged, the right to appeal, and the name, address, and telephone number of the state long-term care ombudsman
  • Safe transfer or discharge through sufficient preparation by the nursing home

Right to Dignity, Respect, and Freedom

  • To be treated with consideration, respect, and dignity
  • To be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, involuntary seclusion, and physical and chemical restraints
  • To self-determination
  • Security of possessions

Right to Visits

  • By a resident’s personal physician and representatives from the state survey agency and ombudsman programs
  • By relatives, friends, and others of the residents' choosing
  • By organizations or individuals providing health, social, legal, or other services
  • Residents have the right to refuse visitors

Right to Make Independent Choices

  • Make personal decisions, such as what to wear and how to spend free time
  • Reasonable accommodation of one's needs and preferences
  • Choose a physician
  • Participate in community activities, both inside and outside the nursing home
  • Organize and participate in a Resident Council
  • Manage one's own financial affairs

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Residents' Rights in Other Languages

The Center is pleased offer Residents' Rights in the following languages, English, French, Hindi, Korean (Illinois specific, not federal version), Spanish and Russian (Illinois specific, not federal version). Select on the links below to access each version.

If you have a copy of Residents' Rights in a language not listed here and would like to share it with NORC, e-mail it to Thank you!

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National Residents' Rights Month 2013



Residents' Rights Month is an annual event designated by the Consumer Voice and is celebrated in October to honor residents living in all long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, sub acute units, assisted living, board and care and retirement communities. It is a time for celebration and recognition offering an opportunity for every facility to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect and the value of each individual resident. The theme for Residents' Rights Month 2013 is, "Speak Out Against Elder Abuse!" with the goal of encouraging residents and others to be educated about and speak out against elder abuse.

 Click here to purchase 2013 Residents' Rights Month Products

Click here to view entries in the 2013 Resident's Voice Challenge

Click here to see Residents' Rights Month news and events happening across the country!

2013 Residents' Rights Month Packet of Materials

Each year, the Consumer Voice develops a packet to help you plan your Residents’ Rights events. The packet is completely downloadable and features ready-to-use items, including promotional materials, activities to celebrate Residents' Rights Month, training tools and resources.

Introduction & Overview

Training Materials and Elder Abuse Resources

Promotional Materials

The Resident's Voice Challenge 2013 - Click here to view this year's entries

The Resident’s Voice is an opportunity for residents from facilities across the country to share their ideas about this year’s Residents’ Rights Month theme with other residents, ombudsmen, families, community members and nursing home staff.

Residents are encouraged to think about and respond to the following questions:

  1. Have you ever experienced having to speak out against elder abuse?
  2. Why do you think it's important to speak out against elder abuse?
  3. How can you encourage others to speak out against elder abuse?
  4. What could facilities, families and communities do to make residents feel safe and know that their right to be free from abuse is supported?

Residents can respond to the questions in writing (poems, stories), through art of any kind or with video’s/recordings. We will post some of the entries on our website. We encourage facilities/families to frame resident entries and hang them in residents’ rooms or other areas of the facility.  

Submit entries to: by July 12th.

Residents' Rights Week Resources

Residents' Rights Month Products

Residents' Rights Month tote bags, key chains and magnets are now for sale in the Consumer Voice online store.

Residents' Rights Month 2013 News

  • On August 19, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed AB 937.  The bill clarifies that conservatees retain personal rights, including but not limited to the right to visitation, phone calls, and personal mail.  California advocate Linda Kincaid spoke at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
  • Alliance for Better Long Term is promoting Residents' Rights Month with four billboards that will appear throughout Rhode Island in October.
  • In Kentucky, the Lexington Herald Leader published an op-ed on elder abuse by nursing home advocate and Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform board member Jan Scherrer.
  • Kentucky Legal Aid hosted its 14th annual Resident Council conference on October 8, 2013 in honor of Residents Rights month. The event is attended each year by 90 to 100 from approximately 16 facilities across the 10 county Barren River district. The event is held in Bowling Green, KY. The purpose of the day is to strengthen the resident council and to empower residents to have a voice in their facilities regarding issues that are important to them. Residents attended a workshop and discussed this year's theme "Speak Out Against Elder Abuse."
  • In Kentucky, The Interior Journal published a letter on Residents' Rights Month by Sherry Culp from the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency.
  • The Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Blog featured an article on this year's Residents' Rights Month theme "Speak Out Against Elder Abuse." 
  • In Illinois, the Quad-Cities Online posted a press release  on Residents' Rights Month 2013.
  •  National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners featured Residents' Rights Month in their newsletter.
  • In Carterville, Illinois, The Ombudsman Program at Shawnee Alliance distributed and received proclamations of Residents' Rights Month from Mayors in their 13 county service areas. They developed and distributed Letters to the Editor and Press Releases to local papers. In an effort to raise awareness, they created postcards with this year's theme of Speak Out Against Elder Abuse and distributed them to Long-Term Care consumers and administrations in their area. 
  • In Pennsylvania, an article from the Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging was featured on
  • In New Mexico, State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Sondra Everhart published a guest column in the Rio Rancho Observer.
  • National Network of Career Nursing Assistants featured Residents' Rights Month in their October newsletter.
  • In Texas, the Department of Aging and Disability Services featured Residents' Rights Month on their website.
  • Governor Inslee in Washington proclaimed October 2013 Residents' Rights Month.
  • In Mapleton, Iowa, The Mapleton Press published an article on residents' rights.

Residents' Rights Month 2013 Events

  • In North Carolina, on October 15, 2013, The Durham County, North Carolina, Adult Care Home Ombudsman program volunteers hosted a public forum on this year’s Residents’ Rights theme, “Speak Out Against Elder Abuse.”
  • In North Carolina, on October 17th, Triangle J Area Agency on Aging’s Ombudsman Program volunteers and Durham elder abuse task force (PEAVD) participated in Boom! Magazine’s Expo at North Gate Mall, Durham, North Carolina to “Speak Out Against Elder Abuse”.
  • In Massachusetts, South Shore Elder Services is holding their 16th Annual Resident Council Recognition.  Keeping with the theme, they will be showing the DVD "Courage to Speak" followed by a discussion.  Approximately 55 residents from different facilities will attend.
  • ·       In Washington, DC, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program held their Residents’ Rights Month Luncheon.  This was an opportunity for residents of nursing homes throughout the District of Columbia to celebrate the rights they enjoy as residents.  Sara Cirba, Advocacy and Development Associate at the Consumer Voice, was a key note speaker at the luncheon and discussed the history of Residents’ Rights Month and why speaking out against elder abuse is so important.
  • In Iowa, the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman held several events to celebrate Residents' Rights Month.
  • The Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long-Term Care Ombudsman Volunteer Ombudsman Programs held eight Residents' Rights in-service trainings for all of the volunteer ombudsmen around the state in recognition of October as Residents' Rights Month.  Some sessions included Residents' Rights Bingo, discussions on boundaries, and interactive dietary presentations.

Does your organization have events planned to celebrate 2013 Residents' Rights Month? Send us information on your event to, and we will post it on our website.

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Previous Residents' Rights Celebrations

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