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What is a reasonable standard of care for nursing homes?

Nursing homes can be found in almost every city in the United States. In the almost hundred years since their creation, nursing homes have made many changes since they first opened their doors. Some of these changes have been market-driven, while others are in response to federal and state legislation. The most comprehensive legislation concerning nursing homes was passed in 1987.

In 1987, Congress passed what is now known as the Nursing Home Reform Act. The Act sets forth certain requirements that form the basis for what is considered the reasonable standard of care in a nursing home, as well as outlining the rights of nursing home residents. While the Act specifically applies to those nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid funding, the Act's standards are applicable to any nursing home.

The requirements of the Act can be broken down into broad sections. Each section concerns a particular aspect of a resident's daily life. The first and maybe most important requirement of nursing homes is that they must not only promote each resident's quality of life, but also help him or her maintain individual dignity and respect. In order to accomplish these overarching goals, nursing homes must be able to accommodate the needs of their residents. These needs run the gamut from assuring that nursing homes provide each resident with a nourishing, palatable, and well-balanced diet to having adequate supervision and staff to prevent accidents and assisting residents with bathing and dressing.

With a large part of the current population making their way into retirement and assisted living communities, the focus on care in nursing homes is likely to only increase.

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