Nursing Home Ombudsman

The role of an ombudsman is to provide protection in situations where there is an imbalance of power. This is often the case in nursing homes, where residents are vulnerable and need help defending their most basic rights. A nursing home ombudsman advocates for the residents living in care facilities.

What Is a Nursing Home Ombudsman?

A nursing home ombudsman is a citizen’s representative that provides advocacy for residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other facilities that care for the elderly.

By acting as an intermediary, these representatives:

  • Protect the rights of the elderly and their families
  • Address quality-of-life complaints from residents in care homes
  • Promote senior advocacy
  • Work with government and law enforcement during investigations
  • Work with the community to promote involvement through volunteering
  • Providing information to the public about nursing homes
  • Promote the development of family and resident councils and citizen organizations

While they can be a part of paid staff or work on a volunteer basis, the two main roles of a nursing home ombudsman are: to protect seniors from mistreatment and to help ensure high-quality care.

Nursing Home Ombudsman Under Older Americans Act

Under the Older Americans Act, all states must have a nursing home ombudsman program to advocate for improvements in the quality of care in long-term care facilities.

Since 1972, the Long-Term Care (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. Each state has an ombudsman office with thousands of staff and volunteers to improve senior care on both local and national levels.

When working with local, state, and federal governments on an administrative level, a nursing home ombudsman reports their findings to highlight areas of improvement.

By collecting data on incidents, complaints can be organized based on frequency and severity. A nursing home ombudsman working in nursing homes and other facilities record their findings from each visit into the National Ombudsman Reporting System.

Highlights of the 2013 LTC Ombudsman Program include:

  • Employing over 1,200 staff
  • Visiting 70% of nursing homes
  • Resolving 190,000 complaints from care facility residents

How Ombudsmen Help Improve Nursing Home Care

A nursing home ombudsman speaks for those who can’t do so on their own. They listen to the concerns of residents and make sure the right parties and resources are involved to resolve the issue.

When care is insufficient and appointed representatives are not acting in the best interest of the resident, the nursing home ombudsman steps in to help residents get the care they deserve.

Resolving Complaints

A nursing home ombudsman assists care facility residents in making and resolving complaints while helping maintain their rights.

Complaints commonly handled by a nursing home ombudsman include:

  • Lack of respect for residents from staff
  • Physical and verbal abuse
  • Concerns from residents regarding quality of life
  • Deprivation of vital services
  • Inadequate discharge and eviction
  • Poor food quality and choice
  • Improper administration of medicines
  • Unanswered requests for assistance

Holding Nursing Homes Accountable

They play a crucial role in improving nursing care by holding facilities and caregivers accountable.

By physically visiting nursing homes and looking for signs of abuse and neglect, a nursing home ombudsman can gauge what is happening in a home and whether patients are receiving adequate care. Because the staff knows they are being monitored, the quality of care may improve.

Advocating for Better Elder Care

Nursing Home Ombudsman Programs serve as critical elements in the fight against elderly 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:

  • Citizenship: residents retain citizenship rights, such as voting
  • Personal Property: residents have a right to possess property and manage affairs
  • Care: residents have a right to equal care without discrimination
  • Residence: residents cannot be discharged without the proper procedure
  • 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 reprisal
  • Freedom: 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 seniors from feeling isolated in the face of abuse and neglect while fighting for improvements to that individual’s standard of care.

Reporting Abuse or Neglect to a Nursing Home Ombudsman

Reporting abuse to a nursing home ombudsman is not a difficult process.

Find your state’s ombudsman program through the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. From there, your concerns and complaints will be followed up on with an investigation.

In the event of an abusive incident, there are resources for you or your loved one. If there is an immediate threat, please call the police and be sure to file a complaint with administrators.

Click here for a state-by-state resource guide, or contact us at (855) 802-4093 for assistance.

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Author:Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team
Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: June 4, 2020

View 2 References
  1. National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (n.d.). The Long-term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from

  2. Ombudsman Association (n.d.). The Role of an Ombudsman. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from