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  • Writer's pictureLeitner Varughese Warywoda

Answers to common nursing home questions

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a legal document that details an individual’s wishes per their medical treatment, in times they cannot communicate consent, while they are alive. Also known as an advance directive or declaration, this outlines what a person would want done in a certain medical situation. Examples of such situations can include medical treatment in the event of terminal illness, unconsciousness, mental incompetence and or/trauma.

Living wills help to ensure the preferences and desires of the target patient are met in order to provide them the most personalized care. It also removes the burden of making a difficult decision that could fall upon a loved one.

In addition, living wills can spell out other instructions, such as organ donation and medication use. This is an important and effective way to guarantee that your wishes are followed. However, the living will is void after death. Substantive decisions are then left to the deceased’s estate administrator or attorney-in-fact.

Many health care providers offer these forms, along with a plethora of online resources that make the process simple and electronic. Furthermore, an attorney could be used to draft your living will for you.

What is a health care proxy?

A health care proxy is a legal document, another type of advanced directive, in which a patient designates a specific party to make medical decisions on their behalf in times of incapacitation. Choosing this agent will help ensure your health care decisions are made by a trusted and informed individual.

You are able to include instructions in your proxy and your agent is obligated to follow your wishes as executed in the proxy, unless there is reason to believe your wishes have changed. If you do not include advanced decisions, the agent will make those choices. Changing your agent is permitted and easy, along with amending any stipulation included in the document.

The New York State Department of Health makes it easy for anyone to complete this form online. You do not need an attorney to appoint a health care proxy.

What is a Last Will and Testament?

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that designates how and to whom a decedent’s real/personal property gets passed to. A testator, who creates and signs their own will, chooses an executor to manage their estate and carry out the duties of the will. If the decedent has no will, an administrator will be appointed by the court, who’s job mirrors that of the executor.

There are many types of wills, spanning from oral/dictated wills for military personnel and sealed wills, to holographic wills written in the hand of the testator.

One can be created by anyone 18 years or older being of sound mind. They are not required to be written by a lawyer, but all wills must be signed by the testator and unbiased witnesses.

How and where do I report nursing home neglect / abuse in New York?

There is a plethora of resources available for anyone who is a potential victim of neglect or abuse.

  • New York State Department of Health à Nursing Home Hotline: 1-888-201-4563

  • Facility Complaint Form:

  • Nursing Home Complaint Form:

  • Department of Health Regional Offices: [Click link for various locations]

  • State Office for the Aging employs an Ombudsman in each county who can help assist with a complaint: 1-800-342-9871

  • 911/Other emergency services (For immediate dangers to a nursing home resident)

  • Contact a qualified law firm who specializes in nursing home abuse/neglect

What rights do I have as a nursing home resident in New York?

According to the New York State Department of Health, nursing home residents have the right to:

  • dignity, respect and a comfortable living environment

  • quality of care and treatment without discrimination

  • freedom of choice to make your own, independent decisions

  • be informed in writing about services and fees before you enter the nursing home

  • the safeguard of your property and money

  • appeal a transfer or discharge with the New York State Department of Health

  • privacy in communications and the treatment and care of personal needs/belongings

  • choose your own schedule, activities and other preferences that are important to you

  • receive visitors of your choosing at the time of your choosing

  • an easy-to-use and responsive complaint procedure

  • be free from abuse including verbal, sexual, mental and physical abuse

  • be free from restraints

  • exercise all of your rights without fear of reprisal

  • participate in the established resident council at the facility

  • access and inspect records pertaining to your care

In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a broad revision of nursing home regulations to be phased in during 2018 into 2019.

For a more detailed report on your rights and the required duties nursing homes, please visit


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