How and When to Use a Long-Term Care Ombudsman

How and When to Use a Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Jul 02 2014
Even if you have picked a long-term care facility for your loved one after much preparation, problems can still happen. If they do, you'll want to nip them in the bud, quickly--and one way of doing that is by going to a long-term care ombudsman.

What They Do

Ombudsmen operating under the Long-Term Care Program are located in every state. They are government employees who advocate for the rights and needs of residents in long-term care and assisted-living facilities. They work with concerned parties to resolve issues and complaints, and they can also provide valuable information about rights and good care practices. Ombudsmen can do the following:

  • File complaints on the behalf of residents

  • Provide mediation for family, residents and staff

  • Investigate and pursue complaints

  • Provide education about long-term care services


When to Use Them

You don't have to wait for something bad to occur--ombudsmen can offer preventive education and also offer advice for selecting a long-term care facility.

Patty Ducayet, a long-term care ombudsman for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, says people can call an ombudsman for advice on selecting a nursing home. If your loved one is already a resident, "reaching out to an ombudsman before a problem arises is a good idea so you know the ombudsman and have information about your rights," Ducayet adds.

Problems ombudsman may be able to help with include these challenging situations:

These issues can be serious, and using an ombudsman may be able to help both parties sort out their grievances and make needed changes.

"When a problem is complex, planning is important," Ducayet notes. "The ombudsman can meet with the resident and other decision-maker to plan how to best explain the problem and request changes. An ombudsman frequently resolves a problem by helping all parties communicate and ensuring the resident's rights and wishes are at the center of the discussion."

Getting in Touch

If you need to contact an ombudsman, it's easy. Ducayet points out many ombudsmen make regular visits to facilities, where they often hear residents' problems, and you can also call or email them with your concerns.

"We will take information from the caller, explain our procedures to visit with the resident involved, and take action based on the resident's direction," she states.

Contact information should be available at the facility, but you can locate a local ombudsman online as well.

Benefits

All information shared with an ombudsman is confidential, unless you choose otherwise. So if a complaint is made to the long-term care facility, and you wish to remain anonymous, the ombudsman will not mention your name. The cost is free, and they are there to work explicitly for you.

"Ombudsmen are not advocates for facility operators, owners and staff," says Ducayet. "We are also required to focus our actions on the resident, allowing the person to direct our advocacy on their behalf."

Things to Consider

Ombudsmen aren't a problem-solving resource for all issues. They aren't lawyers, although they can refer people to legal resources and help with filing complaints to state regulatory agencies, according to Ducayet.

For certain issues, some states may have specific courses of action the resident needs to take. In these instances, the ombudsman cannot directly help with the problem, although they should be able to point you in the right direction.

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