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Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 05/27/2022

Ombudsman Programs: Advocates can help residents and families

Ombudsman Programs: Advocates can help residents and families

Everyone needs an advocate. Someone who can help them resolve issues, navigate challenges and make decisions. For older adults who are living in, or considering moving to, a nursing facility or assisted living community, long-term care ombudsman can serve as essential advocates. 

What is a long-term care ombudsman?

A long-term care ombudsman is an advocate who strives to improve the quality of life for individuals receiving long-term care services. Ombudsmen resolve complaints against long-term care providers through counseling, negotiations and investigations. They can also provide vital information about long-term care providers to help consumers make informed decisions. 

Using trained volunteers, ombudsman programs make regular visits to long-term care facilities to interact with residents and staff. Finally, ombudsmen strive to educate the community about long-term care issues, train long-term care staff and consult with long-term care providers. 

The ombudsman program is federally mandated and located in every state.  Operated by the Administration on Aging, the ombudsman program has more than 6,000 volunteers certified to handle complaints and 1,300 paid staff. In 2019, ombudsman programs investigated more than 198,000 complaints and provided information on long-term care to another 425,000 people.

The ultimate goal of the ombudsman program is to provide residents of long-term care facilities with an advocate who will work to ensure they receive the highest level of care possible. Volunteer ombudsman are a voice for residents and their families. 

How can an ombudsman help me?

An Ombudsman can offer advice on housing and help with complaint counseling, negotiations, investigations and resolutions. Ombudsmen stand with residents of long-term care communities, ensuring that their voices are heard and their complaints and concerns are addressed. 

For families who are searching for a nursing facility or an assisted living facility, Ombudsmen can provide vital information about facilities, services, complaint histories, inspection reports, and features to look for while searching for a community. 

As a consumer of long-term care, Ombudsmen can help you voice any concerns you may have about current providers. They can also take you through the steps necessary to resolve any complaints. This generally starts with negotiation, during which the two parties sit down to discuss the concern and the Ombudsman serves as a facilitator. In many cases, both parties are able to agree to a solution. 

If negotiation is not successful or appropriate, Ombudsmen can launch a formal complaint investigation aimed at achieving a resolution to support the resident. Ombudsmen will accept anonymous complaints. In cases where names will be used, residents and/or their families must sign a waiver of the right to confidentiality. 

How should I find an ombudsman?

See the box on this page for local phone numbers, email addresses and websites to contact the Ombudsman program near you. For more general information about the program or to find programs in other areas, visit Ltcombudsman.org.

Washington, D.C.

  • Phone: 202-724-5626  |  Email: dcoa@dc.gov
  • Website: dcoa.dc.gov/service/long-term-care-ombudsman-services 

Virginia

  • Website:  www.fairfaxcounty.gov/familyservices/older-adults/long-term-care-ombudsman-program

Maryland

  • Website: aging.maryland.gov/Pages/state-long-term-care-ombudsman.aspx

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