Senior Citizen Rights: Nursing Homes and More
This article provides information on the rights of the elderly under Texas law. This article is adapted from content created by the Attorney General of Texas.
- Right to be Free to Exercise Civil Rights Under the Law
The elderly have the same civil rights as other adults under U.S. and Texas laws, except where lawfully restricted. They also have the right to use those civil rights free of interference, coercion, discrimination, and reprisal.
- Right to Dignity and Respect
An elderly person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect, without regard to race, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, marital status, or source of payment. This means that the elderly person has the right to:
- Make his or her own choices about personal affairs, care, benefits, and services, and
- Be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
- Right to Designate a Guardian or Representative
If protection for an elderly person is required, he or she has the right to designate a guardian or representative to ensure quality care over his or her affairs.
- Right to be Free from Physical and Mental Abuse
The elderly have the right to be free of both physical and mental abuse. Physical abuse includes corporal punishment, as well as physical or chemical restraints used to “discipline” a person, or used for the convenience of a person providing services. Restraints are only permitted in very specific circumstances, such as when authorized by a doctor, in case of emergency, or in certain circumstances when the court-appointed guardian of a person with an intellectual disability has given informed consent.
Physical and mental abuse exists in many different forms. If you believe you or someone you know is suffering physical or mental abuse and in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1 or your local law enforcement agency.
If the victim is in a nursing home or assisted living facility, or is in his or her home and relies on a home health provider, call the Texas Department of State Health Services at (800) 458-9858.
If the victim is a resident of a long-term care facility that receives Medicaid funding, report the criminal abuse, neglect or exploitation to the Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at (800) 252-8011.
Abuse of a senior who is not in a health care facility can be reported to Adult Protective Services at (800) 252-5400.
- Right to Communicate and Complain Regarding Treatment, Care or Services
An elderly person may not be prohibited from communicating in his or her native language with others or employees for the purpose of acquiring or providing any type of treatment, care, or services.
In addition, he or she may complain about care or treatment, both anonymously or through a designated person. The service provider shall promptly respond to resolve the complaint and may not discriminate or punish the elderly person who makes a complaint.
This right is sometimes violated by nursing homes. A nursing home must have an effective procedure for receiving complaints from elderly people and for responding to those complaints. If a person complains about poor care, or if a family member speaks up about poor conditions at a facility, it is a violation of this law for the nursing home, or any of its employees, to intimidate or retaliate in any way against the resident or the family.
When it appears that retaliation or reprisal is occurring because of complaints or reporting of problems, call the Texas Health and Human Services at 1-877-787-8999.
- Right to Privacy
An elderly person is entitled to privacy while attending to personal needs and a private place for receiving visitors or associating with other people, unless providing privacy would infringe on the rights of other people. This right applies to:
- medical treatment,
- written communications,
- telephone conversations,
- meeting with family,
- access to resident councils, and
- mail delivery and privacy.
In addition, if an elderly individual is married and the spouse is receiving similar services, the couple may share a room.
No one has the right to restrict visits to an elderly person, nor force an elderly person to receive a visitor he or she does not wish to see.
Sometimes a nursing home or other residential provider will try to exclude visitors who advocate on behalf of the elderly person or who might otherwise challenge the facility's control. While other residents' rights must also be considered (loud, boisterous visitors might be asked to leave, for example), a nursing home or other facility cannot use this as a pretext for excluding visitors the resident wishes to meet with.