Ombudsmen are a pinnacle element in the battle against elder abuse and the promotion of seniors advocacy. Third-party intervention helps to protect seniors’ rights, stop and prevent neglect and abuse, and hold caregivers to higher standards of elder care accountability.
What is an Ombudsman for Elderly & Nursing Home Abuse
An ombudsman is a citizen’s representative who is appointed in an official capacity to provide advocacy and assistance to those working or dealing with public administrations. Specifically in terms of elder abuse, an ombudsman is a representative of residents of long-term care facilities or any other facility or organization that may provide care for elderly citizens.
Ombudspeople are a combination of official paid staff as well as volunteer advocates who donate their time for the cause of elder abuse.
What Does an Ombudsman for Elder Abuse Do
Ombudsmen play an incredibly important role in the protection of elders and the detection and prevention of elder abuse and neglect. They operate in two main capacities:
- Working directly with the residents, their families and the nursing homes in an advocacy capacity
- Working directly with the government and law enforcement in a legal and investigative capacity
An ombudsman’s initial role in elder abuse is to protect seniors against the potential mistreatment of the nursing home facility against the resident. Ombudsmen ensure that residents’ rights are protected so that they do not face neglect or abuse when it comes to their quality of care.
As a result of this role, ombudsmen are in a unique position to also bring about administrative change in terms of how elder care facilities conduct themselves.
Ombudsmen accomplish these roles by physically visiting nursing homes. Their visits to nursing homes are at random or due to a specific complaint that has been received. Visits to nursing homes help ombudsmen get a better sense of exactly what is occurring in the nursing home and to see exactly how things are being run. Because of this, these ombudsmen have their pulse on the potential for elder abuse.
During a visit, ombudsmen typically look for signs of abuse and neglect which further helps them to act as an advocate for the residents’ rights. Simply by visiting a nursing home, ombudspeople can help to improve standard of care because staff know they are being watched and thus, held accountable.
Working with Residents and Families
Additionally, ombudsmen help to communicate concerns about the type of care the residents are receiving as many seniors personal care preferences are not met. For the residents and their families, an ombudsman is a point of contact and a resource so their complaints can be addressed in a productive and respectful way.
Ombudsmen prevent seniors from feeling further isolated and neglected when it comes to standards of long-term care administered in nursing homes. They do this by working with the victims to resolve problems and ensure that changes and improvements are made to each individual’s quality of care.
Working with Government
At an administration level, ombudsmen report their findings to local, state and federal governments in an effort to highlight areas where improvements can be made. Ombudsmen look at common denominators where eldercare falls short. They collect, share and analyze data about different types of complaints, which ones are most frequent, and which ones are most severe.
All ombudsmen working in nursing homes and long-term care facilities enter their records from each visit into the National Ombudsman Reporting System. The System holds data regarding how many facilities have been visited, how many hours have been spent in visitation, and what kinds of complaints have been handled or resolved. This is important data that helps policy-makers address chronic issues that are common among caregivers around the country.
With the goal in mind of ultimately raising eldercare standards and improving residents’ quality of care, ombudsmen can act as the catalyst of change between the seniors and standards of care. Ombudsmen are critical elements of stopping and preventing elder abuse.
When is an Ombudsman Used
An ombudsman can be assigned to a particular case after a complaint has been filed to Administration on Aging (AoA) – a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When elder abuse takes place in a long-term care facility, the victim or the victim’s family can file a complaint with the AoA.
Complaints are typically filed when residents of any given type of care facility feel as though they are being abused in some capacity. When the care facility cannot or will not resolve the issue or concern themselves, then an official complaint can be filed for third parties to intervene.
How Does an Ombudsman Help With Elder Abuse
When a resident of a nursing home encounters inadequate care, abuse, or any other issue with their care providers, it’s not always apparent who they can contact to help resolve their issues. Luckily, there exists a country-wide advocacy program to help resolve issues encountered by residents of long-term care. The work of ombudsmen is important in helping to address, correct and prevent the issue of elder abuse. An ombudsman directly helps with the problem of elder abuse because he or she:
- Listens to the victims and their families regarding claims of abuse and neglect
- Investigates further into the claims of elder abuse
- Works with the victims and the caregivers to resolve concerns
- Works with law enforcement and other legal agencies to investigate and prosecute those committing serious forms of elder abuse
- Collects data regarding rates of elder abuse for reporting purposes
- Brings about change by holding caregivers accountable for actions of elder abuse
- Promotes and supports the creation of family and citizen’s advocate groups and councils dedicated to ending elder abuse
- Builds awareness about the issue of elder abuse, seniors rights protection, and policy-making and reform
The Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program was established in 1972. The LTC Ombudsman Program advocates for all residents living in nursing homes, board and care homes, and all forms of assisted living or long-term care facilities. The program operates under the authorization of the Older Americans Act, which was established in 1965 to protect the dignity and welfare of older individuals, with the objective of providing more community-based services and government programs for older Americans.
The LTC Ombudsman Program resolves the problems of individual nursing home residents across all states. Each state has their own Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, with an official state ombudsman who oversees thousands of staff and volunteers who seek to bring across local, statewide, and national changes to the quality of care for seniors.
Ombudsmen are able to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. When care is insufficient or your representatives aren’t operating in your best interests, ombudsmen can step in and make sure you go through the right channels to ensure you get the quality of care you deserve. You can always determine the level of involvement of the ombudsmen, as they are there to act in your best interests.
How to Contact an Ombudsman for Elder Abuse
The Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program was established in 1972 and now exists in all 50 states and in Washington DC as well as in Puerto Rico and Guam. Each state has its own Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman with a full-time state level ombudsman at the head of the office.
If you require the assistance of an ombudsman for a case of elder abuse, you can locate an ombudsman at the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.
If you are interested in becoming an ombudsman for elder abuse, you can get more information about becoming a seniors advocate through the LTC Ombudsman Program.
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Facts
The LTC Ombudsman Program is funded by the Administration of Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2013, the program employed over 1,200 full-time staff members across the country, with over 8,200 volunteers certified to help resolve complaints.
These staff members:
- Resolved over 190,000 complaints from concerned individuals living in long-term care
- Resolved 73% of complaints to the full or partial satisfaction of residents who raised concerns
- Provided over 335,000 consultations to long-term care residents
- Provided over 129,000 consultations to long-term care facility managers, staff, and volunteers
- Visited 70% of all nursing homes to provide services to residents, provide training sessions to staff and residents about residents’ rights (1)