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Do I have to tell the nursing home why I am calling?

Dear Advocate:

My 84 year-old mother is in a nursing home. Every time I call the home and ask for my mother, the staff asks who I am and why I am calling. Frankly, I don’t think that this information is any of the staff members’ business. Do I have to tell the nursing home why I am calling?

Sincerely, Peeved in Petaluma

Dear Peeved:

You do not have to tell the nursing home staff who you are or why you are calling. Both federal and state regulations guarantee nursing home residents access to confidential private telephone calls and other forms of communication.* Confidentiality guarantees that the identity of a caller and the nature of the call need not be revealed to staff members. The only time a staff member may question a caller is when the resident has consented to an inquiry in advance. If the nursing home is reluctant to forward your calls to your mother unless you reveal personal information, file a written grievance with the Administrator. If the problem persists, call CANHR and file a complaint with the California Department of Public Health.

* The applicable federal regulation is 42 C.F.R. Section 483.10(h) and the state regulation is 22 California Administrative Code Section 72527(a)(21).