What Is a Nursing Home Ombudsman?
A nursing home ombudsman — also called a long-term care (LTC) ombudsman — is someone who handles complaints against nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. An ombudsman for nursing homes works to resolve problems related to residents’ health, safety, welfare, and rights.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico each have an LTC ombudsman program to improve senior care at the local and national levels.
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Administration on Aging (AoA) run the United States ombudsman nursing home programs, employing nearly 1,400 staff and 6,000 volunteers.
If you are worried about a nursing home resident’s well-being, an ombudsman may be able to help you. Connect with our team to learn more about working with an ombudsman for nursing homes and other ways to address nursing home abuse.
What Does an Ombudsman Do in a Nursing Home?
The ombudsman role in nursing home settings is to handle any complaints a resident or their loved ones may have. The ombudsman will try to resolve any issues and make sure residents are getting the best care possible.
The role of ombudsman in nursing home facilities includes:
- Addressing systemic issues within nursing homes that affect caregiving
- Advocating for resident rights and quality care
- Educating staff on residents’ rights and good care practices
- Encouraging the creation of resident/family councils and citizen organizations
- Investigating suspected nursing home neglect
- Promoting community involvement with volunteer opportunities
- Providing information to the public about nursing homes
- Reporting nursing home abuse
- Resolving resident quality-of-life complaints
- Working with government and law enforcement during investigations
Ways an Ombudsman for Nursing Homes Helps Improve Care
An ombudsman for nursing homes can do many things to help older adults get the care they need. This may include teaching residents about their rights and taking action when residents are concerned.
The most recent annual report shows that ombudsman nursing home programs:
- Conducted almost 4,500 training sessions
- Employed about 1,300 paid ombudsman nursing home staff members
- Evaluated roughly 70% of nursing homes
- Had 6,000 ombudsman nursing home volunteers certified to handle complaints
- Resolved over 200,000 nursing home complaints
Below, learn how an ombudsman for nursing homes works to protect residents of assisted living facilities.
Resolving Complaints by Working With Residents
Residents of long-term care homes (or their loved ones) can report complaints to an ombudsman for nursing homes, who will work to get them resolved.
“In 2019, the Ombudsman program investigated over 198,502 complaints and provided information on long-term care to another 425,084 people.”
—National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care
Complaints made to an ombudsman for nursing homes are handled confidentially, so residents don’t have to worry about staff retaliation.
A nursing home ombudsman can handle complaints related to:
- Falls and fractures
- Lack of health care for disabilities or illnesses
- Medication errors
- Neglect or mistreatment
- Physical abuse and nursing home injuries
- Poor food quality
- Sexual assaults
- Unanswered requests for help
- Verbal and emotional abuse by facility staff
- Wrongful eviction
Working With Governments
A local ombudsman nursing home advocate adds their notes from each visit into the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS). They may also report their findings to local, state, and federal government officials.
By collecting data on nursing home neglect and abuse, complaints can be organized based on frequency and severity. They’ll also highlight aspects of care that need improvement.
Holding Nursing Homes Accountable
An ombudsman in nursing homes can also help hold nursing facilities and care providers accountable when nursing home abuse takes place.
Tragically, nursing home residents were some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. When family and friends could not visit their loved ones, nursing homes and their staff members were not monitored as they had been pre-pandemic.
“With more than 200,000 coronavirus deaths in U.S. long-term care facilities and hundreds of thousands more confirmed cases, many families are worried about loved ones in the nursing homes, assisted living communities, and other long-term care settings.”
An ombudsman for nursing homes can see if residents are getting the highest quality care possible by visiting facilities and looking for signs of nursing home abuse and neglect.
Residents and loved ones can work with the nursing home ombudsman to address these issues. This may include reporting severe nursing home abuse or neglect to local law enforcement and getting the victim medical care.
Advocating for Residents’ Rights
An ombudsman nursing home advocate can help residents understand their rights and make sure they know how to exercise them.
Nursing home residents’ rights were outlined and protected as part of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law. This legislation sought to improve the care older people receive in long-term care facilities.
The rights of residents in care facilities include:
- Care: Residents have a right to equal care without discrimination
- Dignity: Residents should be treated as honored guests
- Expression: Residents have a right to exercise their rights without retaliation
- Housing: Residents cannot be discharged without following proper standards
- Personal Property: Residents have a right to possess property and manage their own affairs
- Privacy: Residents have a right to personal privacy as well as privacy of information
- Safety: Residents have a right to be free from abuse
A nursing homes ombudsman may act as a point of contact for residents and their families to address residents’ needs and concerns. By doing so, an ombudsman for nursing homes can prevent older adults from feeling isolated in the face of mistreatment.
If you suspect a loved one is suffering from nursing home neglect or abuse, don’t wait. An ombudsman for nursing homes or other advocates can help you. Reach out to our team of caring Patient Advocates who can help determine your next steps.
Get Help From a Nursing Home Ombudsman
An ombudsman nursing home advocate can address a resident or their family member’s complaints and work to resolve them. Visit the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center to find the contact information for ombudsmen in your state.
A nursing home ombudsman can help you and your family address cases of nursing home neglect and abuse, but there are many other resources available too.
Connect with our team to find legal and financial resources if you or a loved one suffered from nursing home abuse or neglect. Get a free legal case review now to start the process.
Nursing Home Ombudsman FAQs
What is an ombudsman in a nursing home?
An ombudsman is someone who looks into complaints and helps resolve them. In a nursing home setting, an LTC ombudsman works to address the needs of older adults and their families. This includes anything from food quality to reports of abuse or neglect.
Does every state have an ombudsman program?
Yes. Under the Older Americans Act, each state must have an office of the state long-term care ombudsman program. This ensures that nursing home residents across the nation can get help if they need it. There are offices in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
Who is the ombudsman for nursing homes?
According to a fact sheet published by the National Center on Elder Abuse, each state’s office is headed by a full-time ombudsman who runs their state’s program. Nationwide, almost 1,500 paid staff and 6,000 volunteers are certified to handle long-term care complaints.
How do I contact the local ombudsman?
You can find your state’s ombudsman through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. Nursing home ombudsmen are listed by state. From there, you can find the office of the ombudsman closest to you and contact it.
Information found on this site includes:
- Names of the ombudsman nursing home staff
- Phone numbers
- Physical address and website of the local office
When were nursing home ombudsman programs created?
State nursing home ombudsman programs were created under the Older Americans Act. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is run by the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Administration on Aging (AoA).
What powers does an ombudsman for nursing homes have?
A nursing home ombudsman has the power to address the needs of older people and their families. This includes cases of nursing home abuse or neglect. An ombudsman nursing home advocate can handle cases confidentially at an older person’s request.
A nursing home ombudsman also shares information about residents’ rights, helps develop resident or family councils, and uses legal means to protect residents when needed.