State and local long-term ombudsmen serve as consumer watchdogs for residential care facilities by monitoring conditions, investigating complaints, and fighting for resident’s rights.
What Are Long-Term Care Ombudsmen?
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is a significant part of the residential care system. Federal law requires each State Agency on Aging to have an Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and more than 500 local ombudsman programs now exist nationwide. These offices provide help and information to older Americans and their families regarding long-term care facilities. They also serve as advocates who fight for the rights of residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities, and similar adult care facilities.
- To be treated with respect and dignity
- To be free from chemical and physical restraints
- To manage their own finances
- To voice grievances without fear of retaliation
- To associate and communicate privately with any person of their choice
- To send and receive personal mail
- To have personal and medical records kept confidential
- To apply for state and federal assistance without discrimination
- To be fully informed prior to admission of their rights, available services, and all charges
- To be given advance notice of transfer or discharge
While most residents receive good care in long-term care facilities, far too many are neglected—and incidents of psychological, physical, and other kinds of abuse do occur. Thus, thousands of trained volunteer ombudsmen regularly visit long-term care facilities, monitor conditions and care, and provide a voice for those unable to speak for themselves. They investigate complaints made by—or on behalf of—residents, and work to resolve the issues. If they find serious violations in a facility, ombudsmen refer the matter to state Health Departments and other authorities.
Other Ombudsman Responsibilities
- Provide information to residents about long-term care services
- Represent the interests of residents before governmental agencies
- Seek administrative, legal, and other remedies to protect residents
- Recommend changes in laws and regulations pertaining to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents
- Educate and inform consumers and the general public regarding issues and concerns related to long-term care
- Promote the development of citizen organizations to participate in the program
- Provide technical support for the development of resident and family councils to protect the well-being and rights of residents
How Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Can Help You
Since they examine the conditions in long-term care facilities on a regular basis, local ombudsmen are a great source for information on those in your area. While they cannot recommend one particular facility over another, ombudsmen can provide information on:
- The latest survey report on the facility that you’re visiting
- The number and nature of complaints against the facility
- The results and conclusions of the investigation into these complaints
- What to look for as signs of good care in facilities
To access links to your state's Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, go here:
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Adapted from Your Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home, United States Department of Health and Human Services Health Care Financing Administration.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. United States Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging.