How Can An Ombudsman Help You With Your Long-Term Care Issues and Needs

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The word “Ombudsman” is a Swedish term for a person who acts as a third party in resolving problems. A Long-Term Care Ombudsman can assist consumers who are choosing long-term care providers (nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, retirement communities, adult day care programs, and home care agencies) by offering information on an individual provider’s services, history of complaints and their licensure status.

Ombudsmen are advocates who work to improve the quality of life for seniors and other individuals receiving long-term care services. In addition to providing the information necessary to allow you to make an informed decision about a long-term care provider, an Ombudsman can also investigate and help to resolve complaints against specific long-term care providers.

Utilizing volunteers, an Ombudsman can arrange for weekly visits to a long-term care facility. The overall goal of an Ombudsman is to educate the community at large about long-term care issues while simultaneously helping to train the staff of long-term care providers. Using the “Resident’s Bill of Rights,” an Ombudsman can inform consumers of their rights and long-term care providers of their responsibilities.

h3. Resident’s Bill of Rights

# To be informed of your rights and rules and regulations governing your care, conduct, and responsibilities.
# To be informed of available services and related charges.
# To participate in planning your care and treatment.
# To be informed of reasons for transfer or discharge and to be given reasonable, advance notice.
# To voice grievances and recommend changes in policy.
# To manage your personal financial affairs.
# To be free from mental and physical abuse, and to be free from unauthorized chemical and physical restraints.
# To have confidential treatment of your personal and medical records and approval or refusal of their release.
# To be treated with recognition of your dignity, individuality, and privacy.
# To not perform services for the facility without your consent.
# To have private communication with persons of your choice and to send and receive un-opened mail.
# To participate in social, religious, and community activities.
# To maintain and use personal clothing and possessions as space permits.
# To have privacy for visits with your spouse, family, and friends.
# To have the rights and responsibilities of residents available in an easily accessible place in the home.

h3. What can an Ombudsman Do?

An Ombudsman can formally address your complaints and concerns. The Ombudsman strives to empower the resident first and then intervene as needed. They can assist through counseling, formal complaint investigation, and negotiation. Following a thorough investigation, the Ombudsman will work with you and the long-term care provider to help resolve your concern(s).

The counseling you receive from an Ombudsman is strictly confidential and can help you to become an advocate for yourself or a loved one. An Ombudsman will listen to your complaint and then offer information and referrals via the telephone, email, or at an in- person visit to a long-term care facility.

If the concern requires a formal investigation, then a signed waiver of rights to resident confidentiality is required, so that the Ombudsman can review the records and speak to facility staff. The Ombudsman will act as an advocate on behalf of the long-term care recipient during this investigation. He/she will gather facts and relevant information in order to determine whether the complaint is valid. Then the Ombudsman will work with the long-term care recipient or their representative and the provider to determine the appropriate course to resolve the problem.

For these reasons, your local Ombudsman is an important part of the continuum of care available in your community. If you have questions about long-term care providers, a complaint about a specific provider or for more information regarding long-term care issues/needs, please contact your Area Agency on Aging in order to locate an Ombudsman in your community.

This article was adapted from “”: which explains the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in detail.

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