The Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Program and How It Works
Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities and similar adult care facilities. They work to resolve problems of individual residents and to bring about changes at the local, state and national levels that will improve residents’ care and quality of life.
Begun in 1972 as a demonstration program, the Ombudsman Program today exists in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam, under the authorization of the Older Americans Act. Each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, headed by a full-time state ombudsman. Thousands of local ombudsman staff and volunteers work in hundreds of communities throughout the country as part of the statewide ombudsman programs, assisting residents and their families and providing a voice for those unable to speak for themselves.
The statewide programs are federally funded under Titles III and VII of the Act and other federal, state and local sources. The AoA-funded National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, operated by the National Consumers’ Voice for Quality Long-Term Care (or, Consumer Voice), in conjunction with the National Association of States Agencies on Aging United for Aging and Disabilities (NASUAD), provides training and technical assistance to state and local ombudsmen.
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
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.
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