What Nursing Homes Are Not Allowed to Do: Protecting the Rights of Elderly Residents


Nursing homes serve as essential facilities for elderly individuals who require round-the-clock care and support due to medical conditions or age-related limitations. While these facilities play a crucial role in providing care to vulnerable populations, it is equally important to ensure that the rights and well-being of residents are protected. To safeguard the rights of elderly residents, various regulations and laws have been established, outlining the things nursing homes are not allowed to do. In this comprehensive article, we will explore these regulations and shed light on what nursing homes cannot do to ensure the safety, dignity, and quality of life for their residents.

Neglect and Abuse

One of the most critical aspects of ensuring the well-being of nursing home residents is protecting them from neglect and abuse. Nursing homes are strictly prohibited from engaging in any form of physical, emotional, or financial abuse of residents. This includes actions such as hitting, slapping, or verbally abusing residents. Neglect, which involves failing to provide necessary care and attention, is also strictly prohibited.

The Elder Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (EAPTA) and the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 outline federal regulations aimed at preventing abuse and neglect in nursing homes. These laws require facilities to maintain a high standard of care and implement measures to prevent abuse and neglect. Furthermore, nursing homes are obligated to report any suspected cases of abuse or neglect to appropriate authorities.

Inadequate Medical Care

Nursing homes are responsible for providing adequate medical care to their residents. This includes access to physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals as needed to address residents’ medical conditions and needs. Nursing homes cannot deny residents necessary medical treatments, medications, or therapies.

The Nursing Home Reform Act also requires nursing homes to provide a comprehensive assessment of each resident’s medical condition and develop a personalized care plan. This plan should outline the specific medical services and treatments needed by the resident. Failure to provide appropriate medical care can result in legal consequences for the nursing home.

Restricting Freedom

Residents of nursing homes have the right to maintain as much independence and freedom as their health permits. Nursing homes cannot restrict residents’ movements unreasonably or unnecessarily. This means residents have the right to go outside, participate in activities, and interact with others unless there is a valid medical or safety reason to restrict such freedoms.

Facilities must have policies and procedures in place that balance the need for resident safety with their right to personal freedom. Residents should not be subjected to unreasonable physical restraints or confinement unless it is necessary for their safety and is implemented in accordance with established guidelines.

Financial Exploitation

Nursing homes are strictly prohibited from financially exploiting their residents. This includes actions such as misappropriating residents’ funds, manipulating them into signing over assets, or engaging in any fraudulent financial activities. Residents have the right to manage their finances independently or designate a trusted individual to assist them.

The Older Americans Act and state-level regulations protect residents from financial exploitation and require nursing homes to establish safeguards against such practices. These safeguards may include regular financial audits and oversight to ensure residents’ financial security.

Inadequate Staffing and Training

To provide a high standard of care, nursing homes must maintain an adequate staff-to-resident ratio and ensure that their staff members are adequately trained. Insufficient staffing levels can lead to neglect and inadequate care, which is a clear violation of regulations.

The federal government, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), sets minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs. These requirements are designed to ensure that residents receive the care and attention they need.

Additionally, nursing homes are required to provide ongoing training to their staff members, including training on resident rights, infection control, and emergency procedures. Staff members must also be trained to recognize and report any signs of abuse or neglect.

Poor Living Conditions

Nursing homes are required to provide residents with a safe and comfortable living environment. This includes maintaining clean and sanitary facilities, ensuring that residents have access to nutritious meals and clean water, and addressing any safety hazards promptly.

The Nursing Home Reform Act establishes minimum standards for nursing home facilities, covering areas such as resident rooms, common areas, and dining facilities. Any facility that fails to meet these standards may face penalties and could lose its certification to participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Inadequate Communication

Residents of nursing homes have the right to open and honest communication with their healthcare providers and facility staff. Nursing homes must ensure that residents are informed about their medical conditions, treatment options, and any changes to their care plans.

Additionally, nursing homes are not allowed to prevent residents from communicating with family members, ombudsmen, or other advocates. Residents have the right to have visitors and make phone calls as they wish, except when there are legitimate reasons, such as medical restrictions or safety concerns.

Discrimination and Ageism

Nursing homes must adhere to anti-discrimination laws and regulations. Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other protected characteristic is strictly prohibited. Residents have the right to receive care that is free from discrimination and to be treated with respect and dignity.

Ageism, which is discrimination based on age, is also prohibited. Nursing homes cannot provide substandard care or treat residents differently because of their age. All residents must receive equal access to services and care.

Inadequate Discharge Planning

Nursing homes cannot discharge residents without proper planning and notice. Discharge planning must consider the resident’s health, safety, and well-being. It should also ensure that the resident is transferred to an appropriate setting that can meet their needs.

The Nursing Home Reform Act requires nursing homes to provide residents with a written notice of discharge and an opportunity to appeal the decision. Residents cannot be discharged without proper notice, and they have the right to challenge the discharge if they believe it is unjust or unsafe.

Lack of Privacy and Dignity

Respecting the privacy and dignity of residents is of utmost importance. Nursing homes must ensure that residents have private accommodations for personal care, such as bathing and dressing. They should also be provided with opportunities for social interaction and recreational activities.

Furthermore, residents have the right to make decisions about their own lives, including choices related to their daily routines, mealtimes, and activities. Nursing homes should encourage and support residents in maintaining their independence and personal preferences to the extent possible.

Nursing Home Prohibited Actions

  1. Nursing homes are strictly prohibited from engaging in any form of abuse or neglect towards their residents, including physical, emotional, or financial mistreatment.
  2. Residents have the right to maintain their freedom and cannot be unreasonably restricted in their movements or daily activities unless there are valid medical or safety reasons.
  3. Financial exploitation of residents is strictly forbidden, and nursing homes must have safeguards in place to protect residents’ assets and finances.
  4. Adequate medical care, including access to physicians, nurses, and necessary treatments, must be provided to residents, with no exceptions.
  5. Discrimination and ageism are not tolerated in nursing homes, and residents must be treated with respect and dignity, free from any form of discrimination based on their characteristics or age.


Nursing homes play a vital role in providing care and support to elderly individuals who need assistance with daily living activities and medical care. However, it is essential to ensure that these facilities operate within the boundaries of the law and regulations designed to protect the rights and well-being of residents. This article has highlighted ten things nursing homes are not allowed to do, including neglect and abuse, inadequate medical care, restricting freedom, financial exploitation, inadequate staffing and training, poor living conditions, inadequate communication, discrimination and ageism, inadequate discharge planning, and neglecting privacy and dignity.

By understanding and enforcing these regulations, we can work towards creating a safer and more dignified environment for our elderly loved ones who reside in nursing homes. Additionally, family members and advocates can play a crucial role in advocating for the rights of nursing home residents and holding facilities accountable for any violations. Ultimately, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that nursing homes provide the high standard of care and respect that residents deserve.

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