Can a patient’s family call 911 in a nursing home?

Can a patient’s family call 911 in a nursing home?

Can a patient’s family call 911 in a nursing home? 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

We get questions like the following, all the time:

“I am worried about my loved one in the nursing home. I asked the nurse to call the rescue squad and she said she couldn’t – waiting for a doctor’s order. What can I do?”


“I told the nurse I was so worried about my Mom that I wanted to call 911. She told me I couldn’t – nursing home policy. Is that true?”

Well, let me just say that I have no idea what the individual nursing home’ policies may be about patient transfers to the Emergency Room. It very well may be true that an LPN or CNA at the nursing home does not have “authority” to call 911 absent a supervisor’s ok, but allow me to remind you, loved one, visitor, daughter son or spouse of nursing home patient – YOU ARE NOT AN EMPLOYEE OF THE NURSING HOME AND THEREFORE NOT BOUND BY THEIR INTERNAL POLICIES.

Let me give you a silly example. I have called 911 4 times in the last year:

  •   call 1 – to notify them of a broken down vehicle stuck in the middle of heavy traffic
  •   call 2 – to notify them of what appeared to be a drunk driver weaving in and out of traffic
  •   call 3 – what appeared to be a domestic incident at a neighbor’s house
  •  call 4 – when a guy appeared in my yard late one night

None of these were life and death emergencies. I just picked up my cell phone and notified the police that someone needed help. Sometimes it was me. Most of the time it wasn’t me. 

You as a loved one can absolutely call 911 to get  a rescue squad to a nursing home when you are concerned about a loved one’s physical or emotional health. That is your right, no matter what facility policies are. 

Some considerations, if it is not deemed an emergency by 911 – Medicare or Medicaid may not pay for the ride and your loved one may be financially liable. But, compare that to the likely fact you know your loved one better than anyone and what appears to be an emergency to you, probably is. 

Also, we have heard families tell us all the time – “They told me I couldn’t call 911, and so I didn’t.” And when we file suit alleging bad care, one of the questions almost always asked by smart defense attorneys is “Hey daughter, if you were so worried about your Mom’s health on the morning of June 2, 2016, why didn’t you call 911?”

Worried? Call 911. You are not bound by facility policies regarding 911 calls and transfers. You are bound by your own moral code and concerns. 





About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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