What Is the Ombudsman Program?


Quick Answer

The U.S. Older Americans Act requires each state to provide an Ombudsman Program that is responsible for advocating on behalf of long-term care patients, according to National Consumer Voice. This includes individuals living in nursing, board and care, and other assisted living facilities.

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Full Answer

Each ombudsman is responsible for working to resolve complaints by long-term care facility residents as well as providing residents with education on their rights, says National Consumer Voice. Ombudsmen must also advocate for residents' rights and support the establishment of advocacy groups, such as residency councils. Ombudsmen must encourage volunteerism in the community and help communicate residents' rights to the wider public along with information on relevant legislation and policies. Furthermore, ombudsmen must maintain records of their activities through the National Ombudsman Reporting System, which tracks facility visits and complaints data.

Examples of inappropriate conduct ombudsmen investigate include patient abuse, such as unjustified confinement, unacceptable use of patient restraints, and inappropriate patient discharges, according to National Consumer Voice. Other forms of misconduct include the deprivation of residents' rights, such as dignity, privacy, personal property, information and expression. Ombudsmen services are available to any long-term care patient, their family members and friends, care facility staff, concerned citizens, and those considering placing themselves or family in long-term care. Together, these programs resolved nearly 200,000 complaints in 2013 with a 73 percent satisfaction rate, according to the Administration for Community Living. Ombudsmen also provided over 300,000 individual consultations and nearly 5,500 training sessions covering residents' rights.

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