What is an Ombudsman?

An ombudsman is a government official who investigates complaints against businesses and public entities. For example, if you have a concern about a nursing home resident’s well-being, an ombudsman may be able to help you.

An ombudsman serves as a designated neutral party to investigate your concerns and provide conflict resolution and other problem-solving services.

Our nursing home abuse attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC serve as legal advocates to ensure that all neglected residents are protected.

Contact us today at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for immediate legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

Overview of a Nursing Home Ombudsman

A nursing home ombudsman is a citizen's representative who acts as a go-between for residents and the facility. For example, a long-term care ombudsman may help resolve resident complaints or problematic issues while the resident is living in a nursing home.

Each state has its own nursing home ombudsman program, and the federal government also sponsors a national ombudsman program administered by the Administration for Community Living.

The role of a long-term care ombudsman can vary depending on the state in which they work. For example, some ombudsmen are responsible for conducting formal investigations, some provide information and assistance to residents and families, and some do both.

Some general long term care ombudsman services can include:

Monitor Nursing Homes for Compliance With Federal and State Regulations

Ombudsmen play an essential role in ensuring that nursing homes comply with state and federal regulations. They work to protect residents' rights and report any violations to the appropriate authorities.

In many cases, long-term care ombudsmen are the only line of defense for elderly residents who may be unable to speak for themselves.

Complaint Investigation on Behalf of Residents

Some states have laws requiring elder care facilities to inform residents of the Ombud’s office and how they may assist them with their rights. If you are a resident in a nursing home, be sure to ask about the ombudsman program and how it can help you.

Advocate for the Rights of Nursing Home Residents

Ombudsmen ensure that nursing home residents are treated fairly and with respect. They can help residents file complaints and ensure the resident receives care and services. Ombudsmen also ensure that residents have a voice in decisions that affect their lives.

Educate the Public About Long-Term Care Issues

Ombudsmen provide education to the public about long-term care issues. They provide information on Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that help pay for long-term care. Ombudsmen also work to create awareness about the importance of planning for long-term care.

Provide Resources and Support to Residents and Their Families

In addition to their other duties, ombudsmen often provide resources and support to residents and their families through the ombudsman program. They can connect residents and families with local services and provide information on how to get help. Ombudsmen also work to create a support network for nursing home residents and their families.

Mediation Between Nursing Homes and Other Agencies to Resolve Problems

Ombudsmen work as mediators between elderly care facilities and other agencies to resolve problems. They try to find fair and beneficial solutions for all parties involved. Ombudsmen can also help residents file complaints with state or federal agencies.

As a nursing home resident, it is important to know your state's ombudsman program and how to contact them. Ombudsmen can be a great resource for resolving any concerns or issues you may have about poor care or other problems.

Types of Ombudsmen

While the primary goal of the ombuds is usually the same, their types of complaints and resolution services might differ depending on their appointment. Ombudsmen may be found in businesses, governments, schools, and other organizations.

There are several different types of ombudsmen, each with its area of focus. Some of the more common types are:

Organizational Ombudsman

According to the International Ombudsman Association, an organizational ombudsman is "an independent, impartial and confidential resource for inquiries, concerns or conflict resolution."

An organization with many clients, such as a municipality or another group, may have its ombuds. The ombuds are hired by and work only for the organization, and they make mandate policies and facilitate the informal resolution of staff, students, or clients.

Public Sector Ombudsman

The public sector ombudsman is an advocate who works for a government. This ombudsman might deal with complaints about the government's services or actions or how an agency or department runs. In addition, the public sector ombudsman receives complaints about public officials, laws, and the legal system.

Media Ombudsman

A media or news ombudsman is an ombudsman who deals with complaints about news reporting on behalf of the public. This ombudsman usually works at a newspaper company, television station, or radio station. Media ombudsmen investigate complaints about the accuracy of stories and promote transparency and other journalistic concerns.

Advocate Ombudsman

An organization or public office appoints an advocate ombudsman to act on behalf of the members of that group or organization. As its name implies, the main focus of this type of ombudsman is to promote and protect the interests of their employer.

They can be found in both the private and public sectors but are most commonly associated with non-profit organizations. They can be titled a public advocate or national-level defender.

Special Ombudsman

Some ombudsmen have a specific area of responsibility, such as child welfare or mental health. They deal with special issues and complaints that come up in these areas.

This position is appointed. It may not be a government or organization. For example, a judge might appoint a specific ombudsman to deal with complaints about the court system or the violation of human rights.

Industry Ombudsman

Some companies appoint an ombudsman to deal with public complaints about their industry. It can include dealing with consumer complaints about unfair treatment.

Many industries, such as banking, have their own ombudsman, and there is also a general ombudsman for the financial services industry.

How a Nursing Home Ombudsman Works

The primary function of an ombudsman include:

In a nursing home, an ombudsman can work:

  • Working with Residents and Families

When families have a loved one in a nursing home, they often have many questions and concerns. A long-term care ombudsman can help answer these questions and support families.

An ombudsman can also help residents and their families to understand the rules and regulations that apply to assisted living facilities.

Ombudsmen make house calls to elderly care facilities to build rapport with residents. Their visits are unanticipated or prompted by specific concerns raised by residents.

  • Working With Government Departments

Ombudsmen work with state and federal agencies that investigate and resolve complaints about nursing homes. In addition, they act as a liaison between the government agencies and the victims and their families.

Ombudsmen also work with agencies to ensure that the complaints are being investigated properly and that the victims get the help they need.

Each time a long-term care ombudsman visits a care facility, they enter the data from that visit into the ombudsman reporting system.

What is the National Ombudsman Reporting System?

The ombudsman reporting system is a computer database that collects information about complaints made against long-term care facilities, including elderly care facilities and assisted living facilities. The data is collected from ombudsmen who work in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The system helps track the number of complaints, the type of complaint, and the outcome. This information is used to improve the quality of care in long-term care facilities.

How to File a Complaint With an Ombudsman's Office

If you are unhappy with the care your loved one is receiving in a nursing home, you can file a complaint with the Ombudsman's office. The ombudsman will investigate your complaint and work to resolve systemic issues.

You can file a complaint in several ways:

  • By phone
  • In writing
  • Online
  • In-person

The ombuds office will need the following information to investigate your complaint:

  • Your name and contact information
  • The name of the nursing home
  • The resident's name and date of birth
  • A brief description of the problem
  • The resolution you are seeking

You can find the contact information for your state's ombudsman's office on the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman website.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an Ombudsman

An ombudsman is an independent, impartial, and confidential resource that helps resolve disputes between individuals and organizations. Ombudsmen can provide a variety of services, such as:

  • Investigating complaints
  • Providing mediation
  • Issuing recommendations.

Ombudsmen typically operate outside the formal legal system and are often appointed by organizations or governments.

Advantages of an Ombudsman include:

  • Individuals can formally register complaints to an ombudsman against institutions (e.g., governments, businesses, organizations, news outlets, and schools).
  • They offer a confidential service, meaning people can freely discuss their issues without worrying that the information will be made public.
  • If corruption is discovered, ombudsmen can investigate, expose, and correct unlawful actions.
  • Ombudsmen assist in preventing governments from misusing their power, such as imposing burdensome regulations or restricting people's rights without limitations.

Disadvantages of an ombudsman include:

  • An Ombud offers no advantage if its activities do not yield results.
  • The trust of the complainant and the audience they are assigned to protect is damaged by a lack of dedication and service. Most times, the client may not be happy with the ombudsman’s decision as it may not be legally binding.
  • Some Ombudsmen can be biased, which would impact their investigations and the recommendations they make.
  • If appointed by an organization, the individual may feel obligated to protect the organization rather than the person making the complaint.
  • The Ombuds may be limited in their actions if other legal entities are already dealing with the issue.

Despite these disadvantages, the advantages of an ombud usually outweigh the disadvantages. They offer a fair and confidential way for people to resolve issues and voice their complaints and play an essential role in keeping organizations and governments accountable.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney to Resolve Your Nursing Home Abuse Case

Are you or a loved one the victim of nursing home abuse? Are you seeking financial compensation to recover your damages and hold those responsible financially accountable?

Our abuse attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC can serve as your legal advocate to ensure that your rights are protected. We can work on your behalf to ensure you get the monetary recovery you are entitled to receive. We accept all cases on contingency, meaning that no upfront fees are paid until the case is resolved through a negotiated settlement or jury award.

Contact us today at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form to schedule a free consultation.


Client Reviews

Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric