Visitation Rights at Nursing Homes

On occasion, family members have advised that a nursing home tells them that they cannot visit their relatives at any time, but can only visit during “visiting hours.” However, pursuant to Federal law, nursing homes cannot restrict a family member from visiting a resident at any time. If the resident is competent, the resident can refuse a visit from a family member. If the resident is not competent, his legal representative can exercise the resident’s right to refuse a visit from a family member. The resident also has the right to reasonable access to any entity or individual that provides health, social, legal, or other services to the resident. The resident also has the right to refuse a visit from any of these individuals.

Sometimes families get into arguments about visitation when one family member perceives that the other family member is upsetting the resident. If the resident lacks capacity, the legal representative can restrict access to the resident. However, it is critical to consider who is blocking the access; the legal representative can restrict access but the facility cannot, short of extraordinary circumstances. A facility may be able to obtain a restraining order or issue a “no trespass” warning when a relative is unruly. The facility will not take this action lightly as it may put them violation of the federal law allowing access to family.

We encourage family members to visit at varying times, including late night and early morning. We believe that it is important to see the night shift as well as the day shift when advocating for a loved one’s care. Residents who receive unannounced and frequent visits from family and friends tend to receive the most appropriate care at the facility. The family advocates will achieve the best results if they approach any complaints respectfully and thoughtfully, despite the fact that emotions may be running high when care is at issue.

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