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Nursing Home Surveys to Focus on Residents' Needs, Rights

By Melissa Attias, CQ Staff

June 19, 2009 -- Nursing home surveys will now place a stronger emphasis on residents' rights to live with dignity in environments that accommodate their needs and preferences, according to guidance released Friday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The new guidance, which became effective June 12, strives to create a more home-like environment for the nearly 1.5 million individuals who live in approximately 15,800 nursing homes on any given day, CMS said in a news release.

"These groundbreaking revisions matter in the daily lives of people who live in the nation's long-term care facilities," said CMS Acting Administrator Charlene Frizzera in the news release. "The improvements in the guidance are intended to support efforts underway to transform nursing homes into environments that are more like their homes through both environmental changes and resident-centered caregiving."

Among other things, the new guidance says residents have the right to entertain non-relative visitors 24 hours a day subject to "reasonable restrictions," choose their roommates if it can be accommodated, be groomed as they wish to be groomed, choose their own schedules (including waking, eating and bathing), individualize their physical environments and have at least one window facing outside that sits at or above the exterior ground level.

CMS inspects nursing homes periodically to ensure that they meet federal regulations that require facilities to provide each resident with "good quality care" and a "good quality of life," the news release said. The agency also publishes guidance, such as the report released Friday, to aid surveyors in interpreting the regulations, CMS said.

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