What Is a Nursing Home Ombudsman?
A nursing home ombudsman is a citizen’s representative who helps the residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other centers that care for older Americans.
They act as a watchdog and intermediary between long-term care facilities and residents, helping to resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of nursing home residents. Ombudsmen can be a part of paid staff or work on a volunteer basis.
Each state has a Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program with thousands of ombudsmen to improve senior care both locally and nationally. If you are concerned about a nursing home resident’s well-being, an ombudsman may be able to help you.
What Does an Ombudsman Do in a Nursing Home?
A nursing home ombudsman may take a variety of actions to ensure that older residents are protected.
Nursing home ombudsman services include:
- Advocating for resident rights and quality care
- Resolving quality-of-life complaints made by or for residents
- Educating about residents’ rights and good care practices
- Encouraging the creation of resident and family councils and citizen organizations
- Promoting community involvement with volunteer opportunities
- Providing information to the public about nursing homes
- Reporting nursing home abuse (physical, emotional, financial, etc.)
- Working with government and law enforcement during investigations
How Ombudsmen Help Improve Nursing Home Care
A nursing home ombudsman listens to the concerns of residents and makes sure the right parties and resources are involved to address any problems.
When care is insufficient and staff members are not acting in the best interest of the resident, a nursing home ombudsman can step in to help older adults get the care they deserve. Below, learn about the different ways nursing home ombudsmen work to protect residents of long-term care facilities.
A nursing home ombudsman assists residents of long-term care homes in making and resolving complaints without fear of mistreatment.
Complaints commonly handled by a nursing home ombudsman include:
- Physical abuse and injuries
- Verbal and emotional abuse
- Deprivation of vital services
- Inadequate discharge and eviction
- Poor food quality or choice
- Improper administration of medicines
- Unanswered requests for assistance
Holding Nursing Homes Accountable
Local and state long-term care ombudsmen play a crucial role in improving residential care by holding facilities and caregivers accountable.
By physically visiting nursing facilities and looking for signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, an ombudsman can gauge what is happening in a home and see if patients are receiving adequate personal care.
From there, residents and the Ombudsman can work together to address caregiving problems within the nursing home.
Advocating for Better Elder Care
Ombudsmen are key in the fight against nursing home neglect and abuse and help work to raise standards for care.
By holding caregivers accountable and providing a voice for the elderly and their families, a nursing home ombudsman can help protect senior rights and dignity.
The rights of residents in care facilities include:
- Personal Property: Residents have a right to possess property and manage affairs
- Care: Residents have a right to equal care without discrimination
- Housing: Residents cannot be discharged without following proper standards
- Privacy: Residents have a right to personal privacy as well as privacy of information
- Dignity: Residents should be treated as honored guests
- Expression: Residents have a right to exercise their rights without retaliation
- Safety: Residents have a right to be free from abuse
A nursing home ombudsman may work on an individual level as well. Acting as a point of contact for residents and their families, residents’ needs and concerns can be addressed in a personal, productive manner. This helps prevent older adults from feeling isolated in the face of abuse and neglect while fighting for improvements to that individual’s standard of care.
If you suspect your loved one is facing neglect or abuse in a nursing home, reach out to one of our caring Patient Advocates who can help you determine your next steps.
Nursing Home Ombudsman Under Older Americans Act
Under the Older Americans Act, all states must have a nursing home ombudsman program to ensure advocacy for improvements in the quality of care in long-term care facilities.
Since 1972, the LTC Ombudsman Program has served as an advocate for all residents in care facilities with the goal of protecting the dignity and welfare of the elderly.
When working with local, state, and federal governments on an administrative level, a nursing home ombudsman reports their findings to highlight areas needing improvement.
By collecting data on incidents of nursing home abuse and neglect, complaints can be organized based on frequency and severity. A paid or volunteer ombudsman working in nursing facilities records their findings from each visit into the National Ombudsman Reporting System.
Nursing Home Ombudsman FAQ
When were nursing home ombudsman programs created?
Every state was granted a nursing home ombudsman under the 1972 Older Americans Act. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is run by the Administration for Community Living (ACL).
Some facts and features about the nursing home ombudsman program include:
- There are 6,163 volunteers nationwide who are certified to handle complaints.
- There are 1,297 paid employees nationwide.
- Volunteer and paid ombudsmen visited and evaluated roughly 70% of nursing homes in 2017.
- In 2018, the nursing home ombudsman program investigated almost 200,000 complaints and advised over 409,000 people on long-term care.
How do I find my local ombudsman?
You can find your state’s ombudsman through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. There are offices in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam.
How do I contact the local ombudsman?
The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center has an interactive map that you can visit to select your state. From there, you will be directed to a page with full contact information for your local nursing home ombudsman.
Information found on this site includes:
- Contact person’s name
- Physical address of the local office
- Phone/fax numbers
Working With a Nursing Home Ombudsman
An ombudsman can be an important ally if you or a loved one has experienced nursing home abuse. Working with them can jump-start the healing process and allow any concerns to be addressed.
If you have suffered from nursing home abuse or neglect, get a free case review now. Our skilled Patient Advocates can tell you more about ombudsmen and other resources — like financial compensation — that might be available.