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 rights. They handle complaints related to physical assault, verbal abuse, neglect, and other forms of improper care.

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What Is a Nursing Home Ombudsman?

A nursing home ombudsman is someone who works on behalf of a group to resolve disputes, such as ones that occur in the government, businesses, or nursing homes. An ombudsman for nursing homes works to resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents.

A younger woman helps an older woman fill out documents.

Each state in America has a Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program with thousands of ombudsmen to improve senior care at the local and national levels.

The Administration for Community Living and Administration on Aging run the United States’ ombudsmen programs, employing nearly 1,400 staff and working with nearly 6,000 volunteer ombudsmen.

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 long-term care ombudsmen and other ways to report nursing home abuse.

What Does an Ombudsman Do in a Nursing Home?

A nursing home ombudsman handles 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.

Nursing home ombudsman services include:

  • Addressing systemic issues within nursing homes that affect caregiving
  • Advocating for resident rights and quality care
  • Educating about residents’ rights and good care practices
  • Encouraging the creation of resident/family councils and citizen organizations
  • 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 Ombudsmen Help Improve Nursing Home Care

An ombudsman can do many things to help older adults get the care they need, such as teaching residents about their rights and taking action when residents are concerned.

Below, learn about the different ways ombudsmen in nursing homes work 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, who will work to get them resolved. These reports are handled confidentially so the residents won’t have to worry about staff retaliation.

Ombudsmen handle complaints related to:

  • Lack of health care for disabilities or illnesses
  • Medication errors
  • Neglect or mistreatment
  • Physical abuse and nursing home injuries
  • Poor food quality
  • Sexual assaults
  • Verbal and emotional abuse
  • Unanswered requests for help
  • Wrongful eviction
  • Other issues

Working With Governments

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 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

Ombudsmen can also hold nursing facilities and caregivers accountable when nursing home abuse takes place.

By visiting facilities and looking for signs of nursing home abuse and neglect, an ombudsman can see if patients are getting the highest quality care possible.

From there, the residents and ombudsmen can work together to address the abuse. This may include reporting serious cases of nursing home abuse or neglect to local law enforcement and getting an older victim medical care.

Advocating for Residents’ Rights

An ombudsman 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, which sought to improve the care older people receive in these 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 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

An ombudsman may act as a point of contact for residents and their families to address residents’ needs and concerns. By doing so, an ombudsman can prevent older adults from feeling isolated in the face of abuse and neglect.

If you suspect a loved one is suffering from nursing home neglect or abuse, don’t wait. Ombudsmen or other advocates can help you. Reach out to our caring Patient Advocates who can help determine your next steps.

Get Help From a Nursing Home Ombudsman

A nursing home ombudsman can address complaints a resident or their family members have and work to resolve them. Visit the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center to find the contact information for ombudsmen in your state.

Nursing home ombudsmen 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?

An ombudsman is someone who looks into complaints and helps resolve them. Ombudsman can be found across many different industries, including the public sector, government agencies, and long-term care facilities.

In a nursing home setting, long-term care ombudsmen work to address the needs of older adults and their families. This includes anything from quality of food to reports of abuse or neglect.

Does every state have an ombudsman program?

Yes. 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. There are offices in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

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 ombudsmen
  • Phone numbers
  • Physical address of the local office
  • Websites for local ombudsmen

When were nursing home ombudsman programs created?

State nursing home ombudsman programs were created under the 1972 Older Americans Act. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is run by the Administration for Community Living (ACL).

Top facts about the nursing home ombudsman program include:

  • There are 6,625 volunteers who are certified to handle complaints.
  • There are more than 1,300 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.

What powers does an ombudsman have?

Nursing home ombudsmen have the power to address the needs of older people and their families.

This includes cases of nursing home abuse or neglect. Ombudsmen handle many cases confidentially at an older person’s request.

Nursing home ombudsmen also share information about the rights of residents, help develop resident or family councils, and use legal means to protect residents where needed, among many other duties.

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: June 2, 2022

View 6 References
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  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. National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. (n.d.). Long-term Care Ombudsman Program: What You Must Know. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://ltcombudsman.org/uploads/files/library/long-term-care-ombudsman-program-what-you-must-know.pdf

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

  6. 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