Making the decision to go into a nursing home or to encourage a parent or grandparent to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility isn't always an easy one. When it is made, there is an assumption that the resident will be able to receive a level of care that they and their family are not able to consistently provide on their own. The state of New Jersey has strict requirements on who can be licensed to operate a nursing home, who is allowed to work in these facilities and the types of services that seniors or disabled individuals should receive when they are living there. Several public and private agencies are responsible for helping the facilities maintain their operations by issuing licenses, imposing regulations, inspecting periodically and responding to complaints. These include:
- The New Jersey Department of Health
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Health Facilities Evaluation and Licensing have several mandates to help assure that people who live in nursing homes are properly cared for by people who are qualified to provide that care.
- The New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly ( which investigates abuse allegations for those over 60 )
- Nursing Home Administrators Licensing Board
- State Board of Medical Examiners
- New Jersey Board of Nursing
- Department of Health' Certified Nurses Aide (CNA) Program
- Various Accreditation Agencies
A resident's right to care
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of Health Facilities Evaluation and Licensing enforce several regulations designed to protect resident's rights, preserve dignity and prevent abuse in nursing homes. Some of the rights residents are entitled to include:
- To have their medical care explained in terms they can understand, and to refuse care -- including medications -- if they wish
- To be free from physical or mental abuse or neglect
- To be free of restraint; any restraint used should be temporary and to protect the resident or others from harm, and never used as a punishment
- To manage their own finances, or have an assigned family member or guardian manage their finances
- To live in a clean facility, wear clean well-fitting clothes, have access to the outdoors and have access to social activities both in and out of the nursing home
- To have access to a safe place to voice complaints, without fear of punishment
As part of the standard of care, all of these rights should be enforced. Any unusual practices, such as using restraints, should be documented and accessible; an explanation should be issued for why they were used and how frequently the facility resorts to similar measures. Residents should have all personal care matters attended to in order to prevent unnecessary discomfort, or health problems (including baths and oral hygiene). They should also be provided clean linens to use daily or any time they become soiled or wet.
Despite the various agencies working to keep up a good standard of care for nursing homes, there are unfortunately times when these standards are not met. Thousands of complaints are issued every year, and some residents and their families resist stepping forward when something is wrong because they don't realize that help is available.
At the law office of Alan D. Bell, we believe in the fair treatment of nursing home residents and advocate for clients who have been mistreated or injured due to neglect or abuse. By holding those responsible accountable for mistreatment, family's can protect their loved one and help shed light on practices that could be putting other residents in danger as well.