After reviewing nearly 10,000 public comments on new safety requirements drafted last year, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has come to a consensus and updated national nursing home regulations. 

The updated safety regulations, referred to as the most wide-sweeping in 25 years, will shift focus back to person-centered care and allow residents increased freedom in lifestyle choices and decision making.

The  proposed rules, spearheaded by Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, will take place in three phases, including:

  • Designed care and discharged plan
  • Snack choices and meal times
  • Detailed medication reviews
  • Improved security details
  • Tracked grievances and complaints
  • Reviewed involuntary discharges/appeals

Because the federal government funds the majority of residential care facilities with Medicare and Medicaid, facilities must comply with the new nursing home regulations to receive support.

“With proper implementation and enforcement, this could really transform a resident’s experience of a nursing home,” according to Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for the Consumer Voice, in an interview with The Washington Post.

Expanded freedoms
Nursing home residents are allowed to choose roommates, meals and visitor times. Increased options include the ability to live with family or significant others, eat alternative foods at non-traditional times and receive visitors based on their own schedule.
Staff qualifications
While no minimum registered nurse and staff requirements will be enforced, nursing homes must hire enough adequately trained employees to meet resident needs, especially those with dementia.
Abuse protections
The guidelines have expanded the categories of elder abuse to include financial exploitation. In order to be hired, licensed staff members must receive background checks to confirm no disciplinary action because of abuse, neglect, mistreatment or financial exploitation exists in their past.
Complaint process
Nursing homes are required to hire officials to manage patient and family grievances, keeping detailed records of all documents in writing.
Discharge appeals
When there is a discharge appeal in place, staff must communicate with local ombudsman to have the case carefully reviewed. Residents who are applying for Medicaid or other insurance, awaiting a payment decision, appealing a denied claim or returning from a hospital have increased rights to a space in the facility.

While the new nursing home regulations bring hope for a better future, statistics have shown that 1 in 3 nursing home residents experienced abuse or negligence.

Residents and their families should contact an advocate if they suspect negligence or abuse in a nursing home facility.