About Ombudsmen

What Does an Ombudsman Do?


Long-term care ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are trained to resolve problems. If you want, the ombudsman can assist you with complaints. However, unless you give the ombudsman permission to share your concerns, these matters are kept confidential. Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system.

The ombudsman program is administered by the Administration on Aging (AoA).  The network has 8,813 volunteers certified to handle complaints and 1,167 paid staff. Most state ombudsman programs are housed in their State Unit on Aging.  Nationally, in 2011 the ombudsman program investigated over 200,463 complaints on behalf of 131,078 individuals and provided information on long-term care to another 288,698 people.

Visit the AoA website for more information.

Whether through individual contact with residents or systemic advocacy, ombudsmen make a difference in the lives of residents in long-term care facilities everyday.

A Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

  • Resolves complaints made by or for residents of long-term care facilities
  • Educates consumers and long-term care providers about residents' rights and good care practices
  • Promotes community involvement through volunteer opportunities
  • Provides information to the public on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and services, residents' rights and legislative and policy issues
  • Advocates for residents' rights and quality care in nursing homes, personal care, residential care and other long-term care facilities
  • Promotes the development of citizen organizations, family councils and resident councils
  • Long-term care ombudsmen efforts are summarized in the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS 2010 data)  to include the number of facilities visited, the types of complaints handled and the kinds of complaints filed with ombudsmen. Data has been collected since 1996 and gives a good picture of the extent of ombudsman activities nationally and in every state.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: History, Role and Responsibilities (October 2012)
This presentation provides a general overview of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) highlighting the history, role and responsibilities of the program. Every state has a LTCOP, but each state operates their program differently. Therefore, this presentation will only address the program responsibilities required by federal law so the information is applicable in every state. At the conclusion of this presentation you should have an understanding about what the LTCOP does, who Long-Term Care Ombudsmen (LTCO) represent and how to work with the LTCO. 

 

 

This video provides a detailed discussion on the history of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and the work that Ombudsman across the country do on a daily basis to help residents of long-term care facilities.

Featuring Elma Holder, the founder of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, formerly the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR); Sue Wheaton, former Ombudsman Specialist with the Administration on Aging; and facilitated by William Benson, Health Benefits ABC.

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What Concerns Does an Ombudsman Address?


  • Violation of residents' rights or dignity
  • Physical, verbal or mental abuse, deprivation of services necessary to maintain residents' physical and mental health, or unreasonable confinement
  • Poor quality of care, including inadequate personal hygiene and slow response to requests for assistance
  • Improper transfer or discharge of patient
  • Inappropriate use of chemical or physical restraints
  • Any resident concern about quality of care or quality of life

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What are Residents' Rights?


  • The right of citizenship. Nursing home residents do not lose any of their rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, to religious freedom and to associate with whom they choose.
  • The right to dignity. Residents of nursing homes are honored guests and have the right to be so treated.
  • The right to privacy. Nursing home residents have the right to privacy whenever possible, including the right to privacy with their spouse, the right to have their medical and personal records treated in confidence, and the right to private, uncensored communication.
  • The right to personal property. Nursing home residents have the right to possess and use personal property and to manage their financial affairs.
  • The right to information. Nursing home residents have the right to information, including the regulations of the home and the costs for services rendered. They also have the right to participate in decisions about any treatment, including the right to refuse treatment.
  • The right of freedom. Nursing home residents have the right to be free from mental or physical abuse and from physical or chemical restraint unless ordered by their physician.
  • The right to care. Residents have the right to equal care, treatment and services provided by the facility without discrimination.
  • The right of residence. Nursing home residents have the right to live at the home unless they violate publicized regulations. They may not be discharged without timely and proper notification to both the resident and the family or guardian.
  • The right of expression. Nursing home residents have the right to exercise their rights, including the right to file complaints and grievances without fear or reprisal.

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Who Can Use an Ombudsman's Services?


  • Residents of any nursing home or board and care facility, including assisted living facilities
  • A family member or friend of a nursing home resident
  • A nursing home administrator or employee with a concern about a resident at their facility
  • Any individual or citizen's group interested in the welfare of residents
  • Individuals and families who are considering long-term care placement

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How Can I Get Involved?


Visit residents frequently. If you don't know a resident, call the ombudsman for suggestions of facilities that need visitation.

Report concerns about poor care or other problems to the ombudsman program. Volunteer to be an ombudsman in your community. To find the ombudsman program in your area, click here.

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