New Mexico law provides basic rights to all nursing home residents, and the New Mexico Department of Health has the responsibility of oversight.
There are five specific areas of concern for residents, and if there are violations, the federal government may place a nursing home on a watch list and assign it special focus status.
Nursing home staff are to keep residents clean, well-groomed and free of odor. Staff must also make beds every day and change linens at least once a week or as needed.
Plan of care
A nursing home resident must have a plan of care as created by a physician or other health care professional. The plan must be available within two weeks of move-in day for the resident and should include measurable goals.
Under New Mexico law, a nursing home resident has the right to private, unrestricted communications with family members, doctors, attorneys and others unless there is a medical reason that prevents this.
Nursing home staff should closely follow the individual dietary needs of each resident. Fluids for proper hydration must be available and eating assistance provided on an as-needed basis.
Use of restraints
Nursing home staff may not make the decision to use a restraint on a resident. First, a physician must determine that the restraint is medically necessary and order it. He or she must provide written authorization for any kind of restraint and note the length of time for use. Only in the case of an emergency should staff use restraints as a temporary safety measure for nursing home occupants.
About special focus status
This designation, which originates with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, refers to only the poorest-performing nursing homes. In New Mexico, only one is under scrutiny at this time: Casa Real in Santa Fe, and that facility is showing improvement in its practices. Anyone who is considering a nursing home for a loved one should be cautious and investigate the facility thoroughly, including its history, its state of cleanliness and the number of staff and their functions. People have rights as nursing home residents, and they deserve the best care available.