legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Nursing Home Ombudsman
A nursing home ombudsman, also known as a long-term care ombudsman, is a government official that handles complaints and issues in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
If you or a loved one experienced abuse or neglect in a nursing home, an ombudsman could help you resolve the issue and potentially protect other residents from harm. All 50 states have a long-term care ombudsman program to help protect nursing home residents at the state and national levels.
You could be eligible for financial compensation if the nursing home is proven to be negligent. The personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, can help you determine the best legal action and ensure all at-fault parties are held accountable.
Contact our nursing home abuse attorneys at (800) 926-7565 for a free consultation to learn more about your legal options.What is a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program?
The US Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA). Long-term care (LTC) or nursing home ombudsman programs address issues in nursing facilities, helping protect the health, safety, and rights of nursing home residents.
All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico, have nursing home ombudsman programs. Every state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman led by a full-time LTC ombudsman responsible for directing ombudsman services throughout the state.
Under the OAA, ombudsman nursing home programs are required to:
- Identify, investigate, and address complaints from residents or their proxies
- Inform nursing home residents about long-term services and supports (LTSS)
- Ensure that residents have timely and constant access to the ombudsman program
- Represent residents’ interests before public agencies and seek remedies to protect residents from harm
- Study, comment on, and suggest changes in laws and regulations concerning the health, safety, and rights of residents
Ombudsman nursing home programs must work to protect residents’ rights, which, according to the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, include:
- Rights to citizenship, including the right to vote and practice religious freedom
- Right to be treated with respect and dignity
- Right to be free from physical, mental, sexual, and financial abuse
- Right to be free from physical or chemical restraints
- Right to privacy for personal matters and medical care
- Right to communicate freely
- Right to possess and use personal property
- Right to manage one’s own financial affairs
- Right to receive necessary medical care and treatment without discrimination
- Right to express grievances without fear or reprisal
Nursing home ombudsman programs are headed by public officials who are volunteers or appointed by government agencies. Many are specially trained and certified citizen volunteers, usually retired professionals from various careers.
Whether volunteers or paid staff, nursing home ombudsmen are dedicated advocates of residents of nursing homes. A long-care ombudsman is responsible for the following:
- Resolving complaints made by or for nursing home patients
- Ensuring that residents understand their rights and educating them about quality care practices
- Helping consumers find suitable care facilities
- Promoting community involvement through volunteer programs and the development of citizen organizations and family and resident councils
- Advocating for resident rights and proper care in nursing facilities
- Providing suggestions for the improvement of nursing care homes
- Providing information to the public about nursing homes, residents’ rights, and policy and legislative matters
- Working with law enforcement and other government agencies in investigations related to nursing home abuse
Ombudsman nursing home programs report their activities to Administration for Community Living (ACL) or the Administration on Aging (AOA), who then summarize the data in the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS).
Ombudsmen report facility visits, complaints, investigations, community education, and other activities to the NORS. Ombudsman program data is available to the public on the National Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) website or ACL AGing, Independence, and Disability (AGID) Program Data Portal.
More information about nursing home ombudsmen is available on the National Consumer Voice website. You can also learn how to become an ombudsman in your state.
By collecting data from ombudsman reports, states can analyze complaints, identify points for improvement, and determine the effectiveness of long-term care ombudsman program services.
Furthermore, information from the ombudsman system can help identify persisting systemic issues that need to be prioritized to improve the quality of life in nursing homes.What Issues Does a Nursing Home Ombudsman Address?
Long-term care ombudsmen deal with complaints from residents, family members, or concerned citizens. Below are common concerns that ombudsmen address:
- Violation of residents’ rights
- Insufficient care to maintain the physical and mental health of residents
- Physical, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse and neglect
- Unreasonable confinement
- Lack of disability services and equipment
- Inappropriate transfer, discharge, or eviction of a nursing home resident
- Use of physical or chemical restraints without a valid medical reason
- Poor food quality, unsanitary or unsafe living conditions, health code violations, accident hazards, etc.
- Any concerns relating to elder abuse, residents’ quality of life and welfare, negligent staff members, etc.
An ombudsman can launch investigations as needed and may assist other government agencies in separate inspections.
How Does a Nursing Home Ombudsman Program Help Ensure Quality Care in Nursing Homes?
Ombudsmen resolve problems related to elder abuse, poor quality of care, and other situations that cause or create a risk of harm to disabled and older adults. In doing so, every long-term care ombudsman helps address systemic issues hindering high-quality care for older Americans.
According to the National Consumer Voice, the long-term care ombudsman program achieved the following in 2020:
- Providing information and assistance to 381,724 individuals, including residents of long-term care establishments, their family members, and other citizens
- Conducting 191,214 facility visits, with 39,984 nursing homes receiving at least one visit from ombudsman representatives
- Providing information and assistance to 261,989 staff members in long-term care facilities
- Attending 1,208 family council meetings and 10,737 resident council meetings
- Providing 2,121 training programs for long-term care facility staff members
Furthermore, the long-term care ombudsman program resolved or partially resolved about 70% of all nursing home complaints to the satisfaction of the complainant. The ombudsman program handled 153,324 complaints from residents, family members, and other concerned individuals.Frequent Issues Handled by Ombudsman Offices
The three most frequent complaints in nursing homes received by ombudsman offices were:
- Improper discharge or eviction of a resident
- Unanswered responses to assistance requests
- Physical or elder abuse
Meanwhile, the three most common complaints in community living establishments received by long-term care ombudsman offices were:
- Improper discharge or eviction of a resident
- Medication errors
- Violations of resident dignity and respect
The following can use the long-term care ombudsman program in their respective states:
- Residents in nursing homes, community living centers, and other residential or long-term care facilities
- Friends or families of residents
- Nursing home administrators or employees with concerns about their facility
- Individuals or volunteer groups interested in the welfare of nursing facility residents
- Families or individuals considering long-term care for themselves or their loved ones
Residents, loved ones, and other citizens can work with the state nursing home ombudsman to address elder abuse and other pertinent issues in the long-term care system. Anyone can report suspected nursing home abuse or poor quality of care to the local office of the state long-term care ombudsman to start an investigation.How to Report Abuse in Nursing Homes to the Ombudsman
The National Consumer Voice provides information on how to find the long-term care ombudsman program in your state. You can find your state’s long-term care ombudsman program on its website and see who the state ombudsman is, where the ombudsman office is located, and how you can reach them.
The website also contains the local addresses and contact information of regional LTC ombudsman agencies and citizen advocacy groups.
Furthermore, all nursing homes must display the ombudsman information in a visible location. Failure to post the local ombudsman office’s address and contact number is a violation. Every ombudsman program is free to use.Ombudsman Confidentiality
Complaints made to nursing home ombudsman offices are confidential, meaning you don’t have to worry about staff retaliation for filing a complaint to the ombudsman. Your ombudsman will not share any information you divulge unless you permit them to do so.Alternatives to Reporting to the Ombudsman
Aside from contacting your state’s LTC ombudsman, you can also report known or suspected nursing home abuse to:
- Local law enforcement
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Public Health district office
- Your state’s Attorney General’s office
Many states have hotlines where residents and families can complain or file reports on resident and elder abuse.What is Considered Abuse in Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, and Other LTC Establishments?
Unfortunately, abuse and neglect are common and long-standing problems in nursing homes across the US. While a nursing home ombudsman can help resolve problems related to nursing home abuse, they don’t always detect issues that need to be addressed. Hence, residents and families must bring problems to light by working with the local ombudsman.
The following are considered nursing home abuse and should be reported to the long-term care ombudsman and law enforcement immediately:Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is any intentional act that causes pain or injury to a nursing home resident. It includes but is not limited to the following:
- Restraining without a medical reason
Physical abuse can lead to significant injuries, especially among frail older adults in nursing homes. Common injuries from nursing home abuse cases reported to ombudsman offices include broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, bruises, and post-traumatic stress disorder.Emotional Abuse
Nursing home abuse includes emotional or mental mistreatment or verbal or non-verbal behavior intended to cause psychological harm to a resident. It may include:
- Social isolation
Emotional abuse often leads to fear, trauma, and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is any non-consensual sexual contact with a nursing home resident, including:
- Unwanted touching
- Coerced nudity
- Sexual photography
- Indecent exposure
- Verbal sexual harassment
- Forced oral, anal, or vaginal sex
Victims of sexual abuse often suffer physical and mental consequences, including bodily injuries, sexually-transmitted infections, venereal diseases, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, etc.Neglect
Neglect in nursing homes is failing to provide residents with basic needs, such as food, water, clothing, personal hygiene, medical care, and social activities. Whether intentional or otherwise, neglect is considered nursing home abuse.
Below are common ways neglect takes place in long-term care facilities:
- Failing to provide sufficient food and water to maintain resident health
- Allowing a patient to sit in their urine or feces for long periods
- Depriving a resident of social and recreational activities
- Failing to address resident complaints on time
- Failing to maintain a safe and sanitary living space for all residents
Families can protect their loved ones from mistreatment by filing complaints to their local nursing home ombudsman and government agencies. Ombudsman representatives work hard to hear and address all reports.Can You Report Poorly Managed Nursing Homes to the Ombudsman?
Residents and families can also report substandard amenities, procedures, and policies, in nursing homes to the ombudsman, such as:
- Dirty nursing home areas
- Poor food quality
- Lack of fall-prevention equipment
- Lack of or defective equipment
- Insufficient security
- Poor hygiene practices
- Presence of insects and pests
- Substandard disability services
- Medication errors beyond accepted margins
An ombudsman can request documents, interviews, and inspections to investigate complaints.When is it Necessary to Take Legal Action Against Nursing Homes?
Filing a nursing home complaint to the state ombudsman may not be enough to hold negligent care providers accountable for their actions. You might need legal action if you or a loved one suffered abuse in a nursing home.
A personal injury claim could help you recover financial compensation from the negligent nursing home. Additionally, the threat of legal repercussions can force the negligent facility to correct its deficiencies much faster (compared to waiting for ombudsman actions).
A nursing home abuse attorney can help you file a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party. The individual responsible for the mistreatment should be accountable for their actions.
The primary defendant is usually the nursing home administrator because abuse indicates its failure to prevent harm to residents, which is one of the direct obligations of nursing homes under the Older Americans Act (OAA) and the Nursing Home Reform Act.How a Nursing Home Lawyer Can Help
Like ombudsman program leaders, abuse attorneys are advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and community care homes. Our lawyers will help resolve your case and recover financial compensation for your family by:
- Investigating how and why the abuse happened
- Collecting data and evidence related to the incident
- Guiding you and your loved ones through potential legal options
- Filing a personal injury claim on your behalf
- Negotiating a fair settlement
- Filing a personal injury lawsuit and representing you in court, if necessary
- Helping you file a nursing home complaint to the long-term care ombudsman and other authorities
The nursing home ombudsman program addresses complaints against nursing homes and holds negligent care providers accountable for harming residents. In doing so, long-term care ombudsman leaders help protect older abuse from unnecessary harm and increase the quality of nursing care at state and national levels.
Contact the local office of your state’s nursing home ombudsman to file a formal complaint against a long-term care facility (data is available on the National Consumer Voice website). You don’t have to fear staff retaliation or a wrongful discharge, as all ombudsman complaints are confidential.
Our attorneys also recommend filing a report to other agencies governing nursing homes, such as your state’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the police.Free Case Evaluation
If you need to take legal action against the facility, our experienced attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center, LLC, are ready to help. Our lawyers are advocates for disabled older adults, assisting hundreds of nursing home abuse victims in seeking justice for the harm they’ve suffered.
Call our nursing home abuse lawyers at (800) 926-7565 or use the contact form for a free case review. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.
Our team handles all accepted cases on a contingency fee basis. This agreement ensures you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.Resources: