If you have a loved one living in a long-term care facility, you need to know about the ombudsman program. If your relative has problems or complaints while at the nursing home, an ombudsman can be a valuable resource. Unless you have already used one, at this point you might be asking, What is an ombudsman?
Ombudsmen try to resolve disputes and provide advocacy services. Some corporations and government agencies use ombudsmen for alternative dispute resolution, but this article will focus on the use of ombudsmen in the context of long-term care facilities.
The Ombudsman Program
The Older Americans Act, a federal law, requires every state to create and maintain an ombudsman program to advocate for improvements and handle complaints at nursing homes and other long-term care (LTC) centers. With their specialized training, an ombudsman can also help you when you are trying to find an LTC facility for your loved one.
At the federal level, the Administration on Aging (AOA) administers the nationwide ombudsman program. Your state’s Unit on Aging will likely be where you can find your ombudsmen. With more than 7,000 volunteers and more than 1,300 paid staff members, the program investigates around 100,000 complaints a year and gives information to several hundred thousand people.
What the Ombudsman Program Means for Your Loved One
Long-term care ombudsmen have many duties, including:
- Give the public information about nursing homes and other LTC facilities and the services they offer.
- Inform residents about their rights and what they should expect by way of quality care at a nursing home.
- Resolve complaints against LTC facilities.
- Advocate for residents who experience problems at their nursing homes.
- Educate LTC facilities about the level of care the government expects them to deliver.
What You Need to Know About Working with an Ombudsman
The ombudsman program is an unfamiliar concept to most people. When you know a little more about what to expect when working with an ombudsman, you can make an informed decision about whether to use the program.
- Cost - It will not cost you anything to use the services of someone in the federal LTC ombudsman program.
- Confidentiality – When you contact an ombudsman program by telephone, writing or in person, they will keep your information entirely confidential. If you want them to resolve a dispute and advocate for you, however, they will likely need to reveal your identity. However, they will only do this with your permission.
- Who they help – Sometimes the elderly resident is unable or afraid to reach out to the ombudsman. Not to worry – you can ask the ombudsman to step in on behalf of the resident. The advocates can help people in nursing homes, assisted living centers, board care homes and other similar adult care facilities.
An ombudsman can help a resident of a long-term care facility feel as if she is not alone or at the mercy of the large corporation that owns the facility. It allows you to level the playing field when you have a complaint about the care your loved one receives.
This article is about the general law, and your State might have different regulations. Always consult with an experienced elder law attorney when dealing with such matters.
Caregivers.com. “What is an Ombudsman?” (accessed June 27, 2018) https://www.caregivers.com/blog/2016/04/what-is-an-ombudsman/
National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. “About Ombudsman Program.” (accessed June 27, 2018) http://ltcombudsman.org/about/about-ombudsman