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Nursing Home Residents Have a Right to Privacy

The right to privacy is something that most Americans take very seriously, and the elderly are no exception. That is why the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act affords all nursing home and long-term care (LTC) residents 10 rights, one of which is privacy.

Regarding privacy, the federal Nursing Home Reform Act, specifically states that residents deserve suitable privacy, property and living arrangements, including the right to:

  • Keep and use personal belongings and property as long as they don't interfere with the rights, health or safety of others.
  • Allow private visits.
  • Make and receive private phone calls, and have privacy in sending and getting mail and email.
  • Have the nursing home protect your property from theft.
  • Share a room with a spouse if both live in the same facility.
  • Be notified by the facility before a room or roommate is changed.
  • Review the facility’s health and fire safety inspection results.

When your loved one resides in a nursing home or LTC facility, it’s important to understand that they are not just patients in a hospital. For residents, a facility becomes their home and, just like a home, privacy is essential.

Other types of privacy residents deserve:

  • The right not to be exploited. Since 2012, more than 37 incidents haven been reported of nursing home staff taking demeaning photos or videos of nursing home residents without the residents’ permission. The staff members were usually caught after sharing the images on social media or with others. Nursing home residents deserve to be treated with respect and facilities must make staff aware that such actions will result in punishment.
  • The right to comfort in their own room. If the facility requires residents to share a room with another resident, issues of privacy may arise. A quality facility should include some sort of room divider or other accommodation to ensure resident privacy.
  • The right to modesty. Modesty is very important to everyone, including nursing home and LTC residents. It can be stressful and traumatic for residents and their families to find that staff has left a resident uncovered, or subjected to bathing or other private services in front of a roommate, an open door or window. Facilities should always take action to protect a resident’s dignity.

While a lack of privacy may not always be considered nursing home neglect, like other systemic problems, it often suggests the facility may not take as much care as it should to guarantee residents are well-treated.

If you or your loved one believes that a facility is not respecting their right to privacy, you should take action. First, speak with the nursing home staff and administration directly. If your concerns are not addressed in a timely manner, the next step will be to contact the ombudsperson assigned to that facility. He or she should be able to intervene and get an appropriate result. Locate the ombudsman program in your state here. You may also report the facility to the local division of quality assurance organization. If the direct approach isn't working, you may need to contact a lawyer like Hupy and Abraham to resolve the issues. 

If you have any questions about nursing home abuse and neglect, click here to download our free Guide for Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Victims. Or to speak with us, please contact Hupy and Abraham at 800-800-5678, or start a live chat with us anytime at