As most patients in Chicago area nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities are of the age to qualify for Medicare benefits, they are afforded certain legal rights under the Medicare program. Not only can a facility be punished by Medicare if they violate these rights, a violation can also form the basis of a personal injury, medical malpractice, or wrongful death lawsuit if it turns out that a patient is injured or killed as a result of the violation.
One of the most basic rights of a patient is the right to, as much as possible, have the same freedom and receive the same respect as they would were they living in their own homes. This means that, unless there is a medical reason, they should set their own waking and sleeping schedules and decide when they want to eat. Obviously, the right to dignity and respect also means the right to be free of all abusive behavior and all neglect. This right includes freedom from all types of abuse, including emotional abuse or the abuse of one’s property.
It is also the facility’s responsibility to protect its patients, not only from abuse at the hands of its employees and independent contractors, but also loved ones, other professionals who are attending to the patient, and even those who are legally obligated to keep the patient’s best interests in mind, such as an appointed guardian or power of attorney. The facility must also protect its patients from visitors and even other patients.
Patients have other rights as well, including the right to know about and meaningfully participate in their own medical treatment plan and to be free of all restraints that are not medically necessary.
When these rights are violated, a patient can wind up facing a serious loss and, in extreme cases, may even die prematurely. Because the stakes are so high, nursing homes can and should be held accountable for their violations of these rights, even when the violation was not caused directly by a nursing home employee.