When people are suddenly denied access to a loved one in a nursing home, this may be a sign of abuse. Nursing home residents have the right to deny visitation if they choose to do so, but facilities are required to ensure all visitors have full and equal visitation privileges.
Residents have Visitation Rights
Nursing homes are permitted to set reasonable visiting hours for residents so guests do not interfere with essential care, but under federal law, facilities that are in the Medicare or Medicaid program are prohibited from limiting a resident’s right to visitors. In Chicago, all nursing home facilities are in one or both of these programs. If a resident doesn’t wish to see a certain person, that visitor will be denied access. Otherwise, nursing home residents can have visitors anytime they choose.
Residents can also change visitor consent at any time. The nursing home must abide by a resident’s visitation choices unless there is substantial evidence that a visitor poses a threat to the resident, other residents, or staff members. A verbal disagreement does not constitute a threat. A legal guardian of a resident also has the authority to make visitation requests and to deny visitation rights to any person who may pose harm to the resident.
If a resident has a roommate, legal visitation rights are still valid. Sharing a room does not affect a resident’s right to receive his/her choice of visitors. When speaking with visitors, residents have a right to privacy without the presence of a staff member or personal caregiver in the room during visitation. If a resident’s roommate is ill, sleeping or receiving medical care, the resident may be asked to see visitors in a different area to avoid a disturbance.
According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), facilities must allow immediate access to a resident by the following visitors:
- A resident’s individual physician
- A resident’s representative or legal guardian
- Any representative from state protection and advocacy agencies
- Any representative from the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
- Any federal or state government inspector
If family members and friends are denied access to residents for no apparent or legal reason and elder abuse is suspected, they should contact proper authorities. Complaints about nursing home neglect and abuse are investigated by state Adult Protective Services, the Office of Aging, and local elder abuse lawyers.