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Every state must have an ombudsman program, which pushes for long-term nursing home care system improvements and addresses facility complaints, according to the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965.

About the OAA and Updates to the Act

Congress passed OAA, which also resulted in a grant program that benefits the aging community, triggered by concerns about a lack of community social services for older individuals. Congress reauthorized program through the fiscal year 2019 with the adoption of the 2016 OAA. The updated act includes new measures that aim to better shield the vulnerable aging population by bolstering elder abuse screening and prevention initiatives and fortify the ombudsman program.

An Ombudsman’s Primary Duties

Administered by the Administration on Aging, ombudsman programs provide oversight to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and similar facilities, assist individuals in locating appropriate facilities and shares information about how to find quality care. As advocates for nursing home residents and quality care who are trained to resolve problems, ombudsmen assist residents and their families with complaints.

How Ombudsman’s Handle Complaints

Once an ombudsman receives a complaint, the person may counsel the resident and/or the family and come up with a way to rectify the situation. More serious issues may require an investigation, in which an ombudsman will work to identify the problem and determine its validity. The ombudsman works with facilities to resolve valid complaints. Those complaints that cannot be validated are explained to the families and residents who initiated them.

Ombudsmen keep all information, including residents’ identities, confidential unless they are given permission to do otherwise or ordered to by the court. However, if an ombudsman cannot resolve a problem without revealing a person’s identity, the person must determine whether the investigation should proceed.

Additional Duties of an Ombudsman

In addition to those duties already mentioned, ombudsman also may:

  • Educate residents, families, those who work with the elderly, and others in the community about residents’ rights, some of which include participation in their care plans and to live free of mistreatment, abuse, and neglect
  • Train nursing home staff members about residents rights, as well as medical conditions and abuse and neglect
  • Provide referrals for long-term services and care programs for the aging population
  • Act as a mediator when issues arise between residents and staff members

Get a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Consultation

If you suspect a nursing home resident is getting abused or neglected, then call 1-800-516-4783 for a free case consultation. Connect with a lawyer who will fight to get you justice. 

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