Overview of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

New Law Clarification Gives Added Protections to SeniorsDenver, CO- In the various articles posted on this site we often mention long-term care ombudsman. But those new to the world of long-term care may not understand what role the Ombudsman plays in the quality of care their loved ones receive in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar long-term care facilities.

The Long-term Care Ombudsman Program began in 1972 as a part of the Older Americans Act in order to assure that residents in care facilities across the United States, in Puerto Rico, Guam and the District of Columbia, receive the care they deserve and are protected from abuse and neglect.

Each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman which is headed by a full time state ombudsman. State offices utilize staff and volunteers to investigate any complaints about a long-term care facility with the help of $87 million a year in federal funds.

According to the Administration on Aging, there are 1,185 paid staffers and 9,065 trained volunteers nationwide. In 2011, state long-term care ombudsmen responded to 204,000 complaints nationwide. They ranged from roommate conflicts to lack of privacy to allegations of abuse or neglect.

State long-term care ombudsmen are also required to testify before legislative hearings when necessary, make media appearances and stake a stance on elder care issues. They are also required to visit long-term care facilities to verify complaints and assure the facilities are properly maintained and adhere to safety regulations.

The most common complaints state ombudsmen receive are: improper discharge or eviction, lack of respect from staff, poor quality food and medication problems. Ombudsmen investigate complaints and try to resolve any issues a facility’s resident has.

For example an ombudsman in Maryland helped a woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease have her wheelchair repaired after it had been broken for months. Another ombudsman in Oregon helped a 95 year-old man living in a nursing home get a refund for money he had been scammed out of by an unscrupulous telemarketer.

Facilities that are cited for deficiencies can be fined and in some cases can be ordered to close if they fail to address severe deficiencies.

Without ombudsmen, residents of long term care facilities would have few outlets to air their grievances and nursing homes would have little oversight and some facilities would have no impetus to provide their residents with quality care and the respect they deserve.

With nearly 2.3 million seniors living in long-term care facilities, the ombudsman program is crucial to their health, safety and financial well-being.

When an elderly or disabled person has suffered neglect or abuse at a long-term care facility; they must first file formal complaint with their state ombudsman. While this may help rectify the problems at a facility, it doesn’t compensate the senior for their pain and suffering.

Victims of nursing home abuse and neglect can turn to a Denver nursing home abuse attorney in order to seek compensation that covers their medical cost and their emotional distress. An attorney that specializes in this area has the skills to thoroughly investigate their client’s claims and build a successful injury suit.