Legal Requirements of Nursing Home Care

Published on July 27, 2012

General Legal Requirements

By law skilled nursing homes are required to help each resident attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well–being. Unless it is medically unavoidable, nursing homes must ensure that a resident’s condition does not decline. Care, treatment and therapies must be used to maintain and improve health to the extent possible, subject to the resident’s right to choose and refuse services.

Specific Accommodation of Resident Needs

Resident have the right to receive services in the facility with reasonable accommodations of individual needs and preferences. This means that the facility should attempt to adapt such things as schedules, call systems, staff assignments and room arrangements to accommodate residents’ preferences, desires and unique needs. If language or communication barriers exist between residents and staff, the nursing home is required to use interpreters or other measures to ensure adequate communication.

Staffing Requirements

The overriding legal requirement is that nursing homes must have sufficient nursing and other employees to meet the needs of each resident in the nursing home at all times. Additionally, California requires skilled nursing facilities to provide a minimum of 3.2 hours of nursing care per resident per day. If this staffing level is not adequate to meet resident needs, the nursing home must employ as many licensed nursing and certified nursing assistants as are needed. In a clearly visible place, a facility must post daily, for each shift, the current number of licensed and unlicensed nursing staff directly responsible for resident care.

Care Planning

Care Plans are the instruction manual for how to properly care for each resident. Nursing homes must establish a comprehensive, individualized care plan for each resident that spells out exactly what their care needs are and how the facility will be meet them. Do not hesitate to ask to see your loved one’s Care Plan and discuss with the facility administrator or director of nurses the care needs of your loved one and whether they are being met.