What Is an Ombudsman for Nursing Home Abuse?
When a nursing home resident encounters poor care, abuse, or any other issue, it’s not always apparent who they can contact to get assistance. Luckily, there is a country-wide advocacy program to help residents. This is known as the Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman program.
A nursing home ombudsman is a citizen’s representative who serves as a liaison between residents and the facility. An ombudsman can work to resolve any complaints or concerns residents may have while living in a nursing home.
A nursing home ombudsman:
- Brings about change by holding caregivers accountable for actions of elder abuse
- Builds awareness about residents’ rights and the issue of elder abuse
- Collects data regarding rates of elder abuse for reporting purposes
- Helps create family and citizen groups dedicated to ending elder abuse
- Helps seniors file complaints with other agencies (like Medicare/Medicaid) if needed
- Investigates claims of elder abuse
- Listens to victims and families regarding claims of abuse
- Works with law enforcement and other agencies to investigate and prosecute those committing elder abuse
Ombudsmen include official paid staff as well as volunteer advocates who donate their time to keep older Americans safe from nursing home abuse. If you or a loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect, talking to your ombudsman is a wise step to take.
What Does an Ombudsman Do in a Nursing Home?
Ombudsmen play an incredibly important role in detecting and reporting nursing home abuse, as they work alongside both victims and investigators.
A nursing home ombudsman:
- Works directly as an advocate for nursing home residents and their loved ones
- Works with the government and/or law enforcement in legal and investigative capacities if abuse or neglect is suspected
Ombudsmen are able to bring about administrative change in terms of how elder care facilities conduct themselves as a result of their unique position.
Working With Residents and Families
An ombudsman is a point of contact and a resource so the complaints of nursing home residents and their families can be addressed in a productive and respectful way. Complaints can range from the quality of the food to possible cases of isolation, nursing home neglect, or even abuse.
From there, ombudsmen can take steps to solve problems by speaking with nursing home staff members, administrators, or regulatory agencies.
Ombudsmen also build relationships with residents by visiting nursing homes. Their visits to nursing homes are at random or due to a specific complaint that has been received. Visits help ombudsmen get a better sense of what is occurring in the nursing home and how things are being run.
“Our bread and butter, what we do every day, is visit facilities, talk and meet with residents, get to know them, build trust and rapport with them, then gather information as to what their concerns are about.”
– Patricia Hunter, MSW,
Long-Term Care Ombudsman
Simply by visiting a nursing home, ombudsmen help to improve the standard of care because staff know they are being monitored by a third party. Ombudsmen can also look for possible signs of nursing home abuse and neglect during these visits.
In addition, the ombudsman can help families coordinate care plans and inform residents of their rights as they live in a nursing home.
Working With Government
At an administrative level, ombudsmen report their findings to local, state, and federal government agencies 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 care homes and assisted living facilities enter their records from each visit into the National Ombudsman Reporting System.
This system holds data regarding:
- How many facilities have been visited
- How many hours have been spent in visitation
- What kinds of complaints have been handled or resolved
This is important data that helps policymakers address chronic issues that affect nursing home residents around the country.
When Is a Nursing Home Ombudsman Used?
Residents or family members can use a nursing home ombudsman to resolve issues if working directly with nursing home staff or administrators fails, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
“No question is too big or small. The beauty of the ombudsman program is that we’re a jack of all trades.”
– Patricia Hunter, MSW,
Long-Term Care Ombudsman
When the care facility cannot or will not resolve the concerns, then a complaint can be filed with the Administration on Aging (AoA) for third parties to intervene. A designated ombudsman may then be assigned to the case.
Are you considering taking legal action? We can help. Call us today at (855) 264-6310.
How Do I Contact My Local Nursing Home Ombudsman?
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. This agency provides names, phone numbers, and addresses for ombudsmen in every state.
Nursing Home Ombudsman FAQ
When were nursing home ombudsman programs created?
The LTC Ombudsman program was established in 1972. The program advocates for all residents living in nursing homes and other types of long-term care facilities.
This program operates under the authorization of the Older Americans Act (OAA), which was established in 1965 to protect the dignity and welfare of older individuals and to provide more community-based services and government programs to older Americans.
The LTC Ombudsman program is funded by the Administration on Aging (AoA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In 2017, the program employed over 1,300 full-time staff members across the country, with over 6,600 volunteer ombudsmen certified to help resolve complaints.
Does every state have an ombudsman program?
Yes. The LTC Ombudsman program resolves the problems of individual nursing home residents across all states.
Each state has its own Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, as do Guam, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. An official ombudsman for each state oversees thousands of staff and volunteers who seek to bring changes to the quality of life for older adults across local, state, and national levels.
Why should I work with an ombudsman for elder abuse?
Ombudsmen are able to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. When care is insufficient or a nursing home isn’t operating in your best interests, an ombudsman can step in and help you get the quality of care you deserve.
According to data from 2017, nursing home ombudsmen:
- Resolved over 201,000 complaints from residents or family members
- Resolved 73% of complaints to the full or partial satisfaction of residents
- Provided information and aid to over 402,000 people
- Provided over 127,000 consultations to long-term care facility managers, staff, and volunteers
- Visited 68% of all nursing homes to provide services to residents, provide training sessions to staff and residents about residents’ rights
What can I do after contacting a nursing home ombudsman?
After contacting an ombudsman for elder abuse, you may also want to contact a nursing home abuse lawyer. These attorneys can help you and your family pursue financial compensation after nursing home abuse or neglect has been committed.
Learn more about your legal options with a free case review today.