Long Term Ombudsman

A long-term care Ombudsman is a position required by the Older Americans Act that provides nursing home residents with a third party to represent their interests. Even though every employee of a nursing home is considered to be a patient’s advocate, they are all paid by the nursing home. This creates an obvious conflict of interest – a worker may not want to challenge the nursing home administrator or policies when their job is on the line.

An Ombudsman can come into the facility and help the residents only if the residents are willing to speak with them. Residents have the right to refuse the assistance if they wish, although if the Ombudsman believes that the patient has been intimidated by the nursing home administrator they can file a complaint with the state agency that oversees nursing homes whether or not the patient wants it reported.

The Ombudsman helps to mediate situations, such as when two residents don’t get along and are creating problems for each other and other residents. They also assist with room changes, meet with families to ensure resident’s wishes are honored, and assist in setting up resident councils and family councils so that their concerns can be addressed.

The nursing home is required to post the telephone number for the long-term care Ombudsman throughout the facility, and must provide a private area where residents can call the Ombudsman without fear of retaliation. However, in many cases residents are still fearful of becoming a victim of a worker they’ve observed mistreating another resident. Ombudsmen aren’t allowed to share the information that a patient or family member provides without permission as long as the issue doesn’t mean actual harm may be caused to a resident. If the Ombudsman believes that the patient is in danger of bodily harm, he’s obligated to report as much information as is necessary to ensure the resident’s safety.

The Ombudsman service;

  • Ensures the resident’s right to dignity.
  • Ensures that the resident’s privacy is honored, including the right to be alone with a spouse or significant other whether or not the family agrees.
  • Ensures that the residents aren’t being abused, deprived of services or confined against their will. Abuse means physical, verbal or mental abuse.
  • Ensures that the resident is receiving appropriate care.
  • Ensures that the resident is receiving quality care.
  • Ensures that the resident is free to vote, practice religion and may associate with anyone that they would like.
  • Ensures that the resident maintains the right to have personal items in the nursing home, and that they manage their own financial affairs if they’d like.
  • Ensures that the resident’s rights aren’t violated by the nursing home discharging or transferring him without notice.

Due to recent cutbacks, many states pay very little toward the cost of the long-term care Ombudsman program. This is unfortunate, because an increasingly amount of volunteers are recruited to serve nursing home residents. Volunteers can be helpful in certain situations, such as becoming the liaison for resident council meetings, but the overall program works best when the work is performed by licensed social workers who understand the rules and laws associated with nursing home placement. Unfortunately, even though the federal and state governments mandate that a long-term Ombudsman program be in place, there is very little funding for these programs.