For those in nursing homes, assisted living, board and care facilities, and their families, an extra voice is sometimes needed to fix problems. Each state has someone to advocate on the residents' behalf. Called an ombudsman, this person makes sure problems get resolved and provides information on care facilities as well as the rights of the resident. Through the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, thousands of ombudsmen are working across the country to make sure people get good care.
What Ombudsmen Do
Ombudsmen are trained to investigate and resolve complaints about nursing homes and other care facilities. An ombudsman will also:
- Listen to residents' complaints and talk the issues over with them. These issues can include violations of rights, violations of dignity, accusations of abuse (mental, physical and verbal), refusal of necessary services, inadequate care, slow response time and overall concerns of quality.
- Investigate the problem.
- Try to solve the problem by working with the staff.
- Notify agencies that license and regulate the facility if needed.
Ombudsmen also provide information on residents’ rights, how to handle issues before they become serious problems and how to find a quality home. Additionally, they can answer questions about nursing home procedures, eligibility and payment as well as help explain resident contracts.
Who Can Utilize an Ombudsman
Nursing home residents as well as residents of assisted living facilities and board and care facilities, and their families and friends, can request the aid of an ombudsman. Employees at these care facilities can also call upon an ombudsman if they are concerned for the health and well-being of one of their residents. Families considering placement for a loved one in a nursing home, assisted living facility or other long-term care service are encouraged to inquire with an ombudsman about the quality of the facilities.
Where to Find an Ombudsman
- At a long-term care facility. There should be a sign posted listing the ombudsman’s office and telephone number. If you can’t find the sign, ask the staff.
- On the Internet.
The National Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Resource Center
Eldercare Locator: Run by the U.S. Administration on Aging, the Eldercare Locator is the federal agency that oversees the Ombudsman Program. Either call 800-677-1116 or find them on the Internet at www.eldercare.gov. If you call, ask for the local ombudsman program that serves your area.
- In your state. Each state in the U.S. has a Long-Term Care Ombudsman office, often located in the state office on aging. Look in the phone book or use the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center's handy map, which allows users to find state-by-state contact information.
What About Anonymity?
An ombudsman will not mention who has made a complaint without a resident’s permission. Depending on the problem, however, there might be times when it’s very hard to keep the resident’s identity secret. It is illegal, though, for a nursing home or any facility to take any kind of negative action against a resident who files a complaint.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is funded with government dollars, so residents and their families do not have to pay for ombudsmen services. In addition to more than 1,000 paid ombudsmen, 8,000-plus certified volunteers also serve the program throughout the United States.
Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, as well as their families, have a right to quality care that is free from abuse, neglect, discrimination or retaliation. Don't be afraid to speak up! If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. An ombudsman will support you, protect your loved one's rights and help you get the best possible care.