Resident Rights

An Overview of Resident Rights

If you live in a Long-Term Care (LTC) Facility, such as a nursing home, boarding home (also called “assisted living facility”), adult family home, or state operated veterans’ home, you have:

  • The same civil and legal rights as all US citizens; plus
  • A basic set of legally protected Resident Rights.

Resident Rights cover all aspects of your stay: from admission, to living in the facility, and discharge.

A short history of Resident Rights

People who live in long-term care facilities are more vulnerable than people who live independently. In 1987, the U. S. Congress recognized this fact and passed The Nursing Home Reform Act that gave nursing home residents additional legal protections, including a set of Resident Rights.

In 1995, the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman was successful in persuading the Washington legislature to extend Resident Rights to other LTC facilities: boarding homes, adult family homes, and state operated veterans’ homes.

Resident Rights put you in charge

Resident Rights enable you to direct all aspects of your stay in a LTC facility. For example, you have the right to make decisions regarding your plan of treatment, how you conduct your personal life, and at what time and location you want to be discharged from the facility.

Knowing and advocating for your rights is critical to a successful stay in a LTC facility. You, your representative, or a legally appointed guardian can exercise your rights. A long-term care ombudsman can explain and help you exercise your rights.

What can you do if your rights are being violated?

Whether you live in a nursing home, a boarding home (“assisted living facility”), an adult family home, or a state operated veterans’ home, you or your advocate can pursue these options one at a time, simultaneously, and in any order:

  • Talk directly to facility staff
  • File a written grievance with the facility
  • Voice your concern and get support at a Resident Council meeting
  • Call your local LTC Ombudsman for advice and/or request their help and involvement (See the list of LTC Ombudsmen by County)
  • Call the DSHS Complaint Hotline (1-800-562-6078) and report your concern.
    • You will be asked to leave a message.
    • Provide specific details about your concern, your name and phone number, and a good time to reach you.
    • DSHS will call you back.
  • You also have the option to remain anonymous to the facility, DSHS, or to both entities.

Retaliation, Coercion or Interference

It is illegal to retaliate against residents in any way for talking to the ombudsman or filing a complaint or grievance.  It is also illegal for a facility to interfere with the ombudsman’s duties, including the investigation of complaints or provision of information to residents, families and others. Residents have the right to meet privately with the ombudsman and to have these conversations remain confidential.  The ombudsman’s investigations and records are also confidential, unless disclosure is approved.

To view the complete Revised Code of Washington (RCW) for LONG-TERM CARE RESIDENT RIGHTS, Chapter 70.129 visit