Most people probably haven’t heard of ombudsmen, but mention it to a group of nursing home residents and you will likely see smiles come to their faces. Ombudsmen are advocates for nursing home residents who are too old or too frail to speak for themselves. Ombudsmen ensure nursing homes are providing adequate care to residents and attempt to resolve any violations.
The Dallas Morning News had an article on the role ombudsmen have in protecting Texas nursing home residents. The Senior Source, a non-profit agency that runs the Texas long-term ombudsman program in Dallas, sends ombudsmen to 63 nursing homes on a monthly basis and to 160 assisted-living communities at least twice a year.
In 2008, Senior Source’s ombudsmen received 8,600 complaints about nursing homes and 600 complaints about assisted living communities in Dallas County. Many of the complaints are made by residents in the facilities, but the agency will not send an ombudsman to investigate without the permission of the resident. When complaints are investigated, the names of the complainants are not revealed to the facilities to assure there is no retaliation against the individual.
The ombudsman’s presence in the nursing home actually is welcomed by many nursing home administrators who are appreciative of the opportunity to correct problems identified by ombudsman before they make their way into state investigators reports.
‘I know the ombudsman her here as an advocate for the residents, but she’s also a resource for us because she brings another set of eyes and ears to our place and helps us catch problems early,” said Jeff Moffitt, executive director of Traymore Nursing Canter in Dallas, Texas.
While serious deficiencies or neglect in nursing homes get turned over to the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, Ombudsman’s actions still have an important impact on improving the quality of life for many nursing home residents.
Leander Boone, has been in Dallas nursing homes since 2005 when he suffered a stroke, had made multiple complaints to the staff at his nursing home about a broken bed without any resolution. Things changed when he got an ombudsman involved, ‘The next day, the staff brought a new bed, and I could finally sit up,” Boone said. “Nursing homes probably mean well, but you have to keep them on their toes. Otherwise, they’re forgetful. Without an ombudsman, I’d be lost,” he added.
If you have questions or would like to volunteer as a Dallas Nursing Home Ombudsman, call 1-800-252-2412.
Most common nursing home complaints to ombudsmen:
- The staff doesn’t respond to call lights
- The staff is rude
- Food is cold or bland
- The building is in disrepair
- The staff doesn’t give medication properly
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