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How a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Can Help You or Your Loved One

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If you or a loved one lives in an assisted living facility, a nursing home, or a board and care home, you need to know about the Ombudsman program. You have an advocate who can help with problems at long-term care facilities. Here are some examples of how a long-term care ombudsman can help you or your loved one.

Why We Have a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

Decades of shocking abuse at nursing homes led to many reforms, including the ombudsman program. The federal Older Americans Act requires every state to have an ombudsman program that serves and protects residents of long-term care facilities. The Administration on Aging oversees the programs nationally. Most of the people who work in the ombudsman programs are trained volunteers.

When to Talk with an Ombudsman in Your Area

You do not have to wait for a problem to contact your state’s ombudsman program. Sometimes the best way to protect your loved one, is to avoid facilities with known problems. Your state’s ombudsman can help you find a facility with a good track record. The ombudsman program (OP) can educate you about the rights you have at a long-term care facility and tell you ways to make sure the home does not over-charge you.

How an Ombudsman Can Help

In addition to providing valuable information, an ombudsman can advocate for residents who experience problems at adult care facilities. If you face quality of care or quality of life issues at a nursing home, assisted living facility, board and care home, or similar facility, an ombudsman can provide these services:

  • Resolve complaints. The resident can bring the complaint, or someone can lodge the complaint on behalf of the senior.
  • Resident rights. Every person who enters a long-term care facility should know his rights from the outset. The ombudsman can educate residents about their rights, including protections that federal and state laws guarantee.
  • Resident participation. People who live in nursing homes and similar facilities have a right to create and participate in groups that give them a voice about their quality of care and life. An ombudsman can help the residents create these groups, which can include things like family councils, resident councils and citizen organizations.
  • Provide information about nursing homes.

There are more than 1,300 paid staffs in the state OP offices, with more than 7,000 trained, certified volunteers who investigate and work to resolve complaints. OP offices provide information about long-term care facilities and resident rights to hundreds of thousands of people every year.

The advocates visit nearly 30,000 long-term care facilities at least four times a year. These agencies also hold nearly 5,000 training sessions a year to make sure the staff at long-term care facilities know their duties and resident rights.

Common Types of Complaints About Long-Term Care Facilities

The top three complaints to ombudsmen by residents of nursing homes are:

  • Inadequate discharge/planning or improper eviction
  • Requests for assistance that get ignored
  • Poor staff attitudes and lack of respect for residents

People who live in assisted living, board and care homes, and other adult residential care communities complain to their ombudsmen most frequently about:

  • Evictions that violate the law or poor planning of discharges
  • How the facility organizes and administers medications
  • Food – the quality, amount, variety and options

Ombudsman program reports that it resolves or partially nearly three-quarters of all complaints to the point at which the resident or person bringing the complaint is satisfied with the result.

Every state has different laws. You should talk to an elder law attorney near you about how your state’s regulations might differ from the general law of this article.


National Consumer Voice. “About Ombudsman Program.” (accessed August 15, 2019)

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