Nursing Home Ombudsman

A nursing home ombudsman advocates for the residents of long-term care facilities. Nursing home ombudsmen protect vulnerable residents and help defend their most basic rights. They handle complaints related to physical and verbal abuse, neglect, and other forms of improper care.

What Is a Nursing Home Ombudsman?

A nursing home ombudsman is a citizen’s representative. They help resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of nursing home residents.

Each state has a Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program with thousands of ombudsmen to improve senior care at the local and national levels. Ombudsmen can be a part of paid staff or work on a volunteer basis.

If you are concerned about a nursing home resident’s well-being, an ombudsman may be able to help you. Connect with our team to learn more about ombudsmen and other avenues to report nursing home abuse.

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What Does an Ombudsman Do in a Nursing Home?

A nursing home ombudsman may take a variety of actions to protect older residents.

Nursing home ombudsman services include:

  • Advocating for resident rights and quality care
  • 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.)
  • Resolving quality-of-life complaints made by or for residents
  • Working with government and law enforcement during investigations

How Ombudsmen Help Improve Nursing Home Care

If staff members aren’t providing proper care, a nursing home ombudsman can step in to help older adults. A nursing home ombudsman listens to the concerns of residents. From there, they make sure the right parties and resources are involved to address any problems.

Below, learn about the different ways nursing home ombudsmen work to protect residents of assisted living facilities.

Resolving Complaints

A nursing home ombudsman assists residents of long-term care homes in making and resolving complaints without fear of mistreatment. They bring the complaints to staff of residential care facilities and work to resolve them in a timely manner.

Complaints handled by a nursing home ombudsman include:

  • Deprivation of vital services
  • Improper administration of medicines
  • Inadequate discharge and eviction
  • Physical abuse and injuries
  • Poor food quality or choice
  • Verbal and emotional abuse
  • Unanswered requests for assistance

Holding Nursing Homes Accountable

Ombudsmen also work to hold nursing facilities and caregivers accountable when abuse takes place. By visiting 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 go beyond addressing the complaints of nursing home residents. Part of their goal is to improve the quality of care older adults receive as a whole.

For example, ombudsmen can help residents understand their basic rights and make sure they know how to exercise them. Through this, the residents will be better protected against abuse and know what to do if they fall victim to it.

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 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 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 nursing home neglect or abuse, don’t wait. See if an ombudsman or other advocates can help you. Reach out to one of our caring Patient Advocates who can help you determine your next steps.

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Nursing Home Ombudsman Under Older Americans Act

Under the Older Americans Act, all states must have a nursing home ombudsman program. This ensures that nursing home residents across America can get help if they need it.  

A nursing home ombudsman adds their notes from each visit into the National Ombudsman Reporting System. They may also report their findings to local, state, and federal governments.

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.

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 6,625 volunteers who are certified to handle complaints.
  • There are more than 1300 paid employees nationwide.
  • Paid and volunteer ombudsmen visited and evaluated roughly 70% of nursing homes in 2017.
  • The nursing home ombudsman program investigated almost 200,000 complaints and advised over 425,000 people about long-term care in 2019 alone.

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, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

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
  • Phone/fax numbers
  • Physical address of the local office
  • Website

Working With a Nursing Home Ombudsman

An ombudsman can be a crucial ally if you or a family member has suffered from 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.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

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: March 30, 2021

View 5 References
  1. AARP. (2020). How to Find the Long-Term Care Ombudsman in Every State. Retrieved November 21, 2020 from https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/health/info-2020/long-term-care-ombudsman.html

  2. Administration for Community Living. (n.d.). Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Retrieved November 21, 2020 from https://acl.gov/programs/Protecting-Rights-and-Preventing-Abuse/Long-term-Care-Ombudsman-Program

  3. National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (n.d.). The Long-term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from https://ltcombudsman.org/about/about-ombudsman

  4. Ombudsman Association (n.d.). The Role of an Ombudsman. Retrieved June 3, 2020 from https://www.ombudsmanassociation.org/about-the-role-of-an-ombudsman.php

  5. National Long-term Care Ombudsman Resource Center. (n.d.). About Ombudsman Program. Retrieved November 21, 2020 from https://ltcombudsman.org/about/about-ombudsman