Many people don’t know that there is a federal law, called the Older Americans Act, that requires every state to have an Ombudsman Program. The Ombudsman Program addresses complaints by residents of long term care facilities related to treatment, conditions, and abuse of those in long term care facilities. Family members of long term care residents can also complain to an Ombudsman regarding the level of care their loved one is getting.
What is an Ombudsman?
An Ombudsman, usually a volunteer, receives complaints regarding long term care and helps resolve those complaints. The Ombudsman works with both the resident and the facility to come to a peaceful conclusion. Communication between the Ombudsman and the person complaining is usually considered confidential and cannot be disclosed.
The Ombudsman can also hear complaints of physical, verbal or mental abuse, in the event a resident does not have anyone else to turn to or in the event a family member suspects the resident is somehow being abused. However, care must be given that a volunteer doesn’t overreach and get personally involved with family matters. When an Ombudsman gets involved in family fights or family matters, this should be outside the scope of his/her responsibility and should be reported back to the Program director. The Ombudsman is not there to referee family matters. Family fights should usually be resolved between the family, the court system or the state human services department.
In addition to resolving conflicts between a resident and a facility, the Ombudsman Program educates people on a resident’s rights, and advocates for a resident’s rights and quality of care, personal care and residential care. The Program also provides information to people about locating long term care facilities and what you should know to get quality care.
Usually, each state has local offices to help run the program, sometimes called the Commission on the Aging, Area on the Aging, Administration on the Aging, etc. If you contact your local township or city hall, they will most likely have the information you need to contact the local Ombudsman Program. The National Council on Aging website is an excellent resource to learn more about the various aging programs.