Nursing Home Ombudsman

The main role of a nursing home ombudsman is to protect the basic rights of nursing home residents. An ombudsman for a nursing home advocates for improved conditions in care homes and other long-term care facilities. If you or your loved one were hurt in a nursing home, you can file a complaint with your ombudsman — and you may be able to take legal action and pursue compensation for your loved one’s injuries.

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What Does a Nursing Home Ombudsman Do?

A nursing home ombudsman is a local representative appointed by the state’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program to advocate for residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other long-term care facilities. They are especially important in suspected cases of nursing home abuse. The ombudsman for a nursing home helps to investigate complaints and hold the responsible staff members accountable.

The overall role of a nursing home ombudsman is to protect the rights of residents, advocate for older adults and the elderly population as a whole, and facilitate investigations with law enforcement or government officials.

The main responsibilities of an ombudsman for nursing homes can include:

  • Resolving complaints made on behalf of nursing home residents
  • Protecting elderly people from mistreatment
  • Preventing elder abuse
  • Advocating for quality care in nursing homes
  • Educating the public on nursing home residents’ rights

A nursing home ombudsman also works in communities to provide information to the public about nursing homes and other types of care facilities.

What Ombudsmen Don’t Handle

There are limitations to what nursing home ombudsmen are responsible for handling. For instance, an ombudsman for a nursing home will not: 

  • Conduct regulatory inspections
  • Perform adult protective service investigations
  • Provide direct resident care

Given an ombudsman’s limitations, if you’re concerned about a loved one that may be suffering abuse now, you should escalate the situation to local law enforcement.

Learn More About Your Options

If your loved one was harmed by neglect or abuse in a nursing home, you may be able to file a lawsuit and recover compensation to help pay for medical care, therapy, or other expenses.

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How Nursing Home Ombudsmen Help Residents

Nursing home ombudsmen work to improve the quality of care in nursing home facilities. Some of the ways a nursing home ombudsman can help are by:

  • Protecting residents’ rights
  • Handling complaints
  • Holding nursing homes accountable (through on-site inspections)

Protect the Rights of Nursing Home Residents

One of the most important roles of a nursing home ombudsman is to ensure residents and family members know their rights and how to exercise them.

Although the goal of all nursing homes should be to provide the highest quality of comfort and care for its residents, federal law specifies very clear minimums that must be met. These minimums revolve around care, dignity, expression, housing, personal property, privacy, and safety.

By law, nursing home residents have the right to:

  • Be free from abuse and neglect
  • Be free from discrimination
  • Be free from restraints
  • Be treated with respect
  • Communicate with family and friends
  • Form or participate in resident groups
  • Get information on services and fees
  • Get proper medical care
  • Get proper privacy, property, and living arrangements
  • Get social services
  • Have a representative notified on anything of consequence
  • Have family and friends involved
  • Have protection against unfair transfer or discharge
  • Leave the nursing home
  • Make complaints
  • Manage their own money
  • Participate in activities

If your loved one was denied these rights, you may be eligible to file a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit. Get a free case review today to learn more about your legal options.

Handle Any Complaints Against Nursing Home Staff

An ombudsman investigates and resolves complaints against nursing home staff that include abuse, neglect, and exploitation. They make every effort to resolve these complaints to the residents’ satisfaction.

Some common complaints a nursing home ombudsman may handle are: 

  • Improper discharge/eviction
  • Improper medication administration
  • Lack of vital services
  • Mistreatment by staff
  • Physical and verbal abuse
  • Unacceptable food quality or choices
  • Unacceptable quality of life
  • Unanswered requests for help

Hold Nursing Home Facilities and Staff Accountable

An ombudsman holds nursing homes and their staff accountable through regular visits to see firsthand what happens in the facility. By being on site, a nursing home ombudsman can ensure patients are receiving adequate personal care and attention.

If any signs of nursing home abuse or neglect are present, the nursing home ombudsman should work on behalf of residents to address caregiving problems with nursing home staff and administration.

In addition to reaching out to the ombudsman, you may be able to help hold nursing home facilities and staff accountable by filing a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit.

Nursing home abuse lawyers with Sokolove Law have decades of experience handling personal injury cases like these, and we may be able to help you too. Get a free case review today to learn your options.

How to File a Complaint About a Nursing Home

If someone living in a nursing home or other care facility is in immediate danger, call 911. If there is no life-threatening danger, there are several ways to go about filing a complaint with a nursing home.

In most cases, before contacting the nursing home ombudsman, the first step is to talk with nursing home staff about the issue. If there is a problem with the level of care received, speak with the nurse or nurse assistant.

If the problem is not resolved with one of these employees, it may be necessary to speak with:  

  • A facility supervisor
  • Primary care doctor
  • Resident/family council
  • The director of nursing
  • The nursing home’s social worker

If the nursing home staff is not receptive to resolving any issues, it may be in your best interest to contact the state long-term care ombudsman. Reporting potential signs of abuse to the nursing home ombudsman may sound intimidating, but in most cases, it isn’t a difficult process.

When they’re not performing check-ins at care facilities, ombudsman representatives may be working out of your state’s Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. You can find your state’s ombudsman office and contact information on The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

Document the details of each conversation with dates whenever you speak with anyone. Keep a copy of all written correspondence. While you look into the matter on your own, it can be important to learn as much as you can about what’s going on. This information can play a vital role in helping keep you or a loved one safe in a nursing home.

Learn More About Your Options

If your loved one was harmed by neglect or abuse in a nursing home, you may be able to file a lawsuit and recover compensation to help pay for medical care, therapy, or other expenses.

Contact Us

What Happens After Contacting Your Local Ombudsman

Once you contact your local nursing home ombudsman on behalf of a resident, the ombudsman should visit the resident to assess the situation. They should also confirm that the resident or their representative wishes to pursue a complaint.

During the visit, the nursing home ombudsman should:

  • Describe their role in the program
  • Explain the investigation process and residents’ rights
  • Ask the resident about their quality of care and quality of life
  • Determine the resident’s ability to make their own decisions

If the resident or their representative wants the nursing home ombudsman to act on their behalf, the ombudsman will conduct an investigation and keep the resident informed throughout the process.

Get Help Taking Legal Action

If you suspect your loved one is experiencing nursing home abuse or neglect, it is very important to hold those who may be responsible accountable. Our experienced lawyers may be able to help you take action against abuse. By filing a nursing home lawsuit, you may be helping to prevent the same thing from happening to another family.

As a national nursing home abuse law firm, Sokolove Law has been fighting for victims of nursing home abuse and neglect for decades. We’ve recovered over $216 Million for victims of nursing home abuse and their families across the country.

Get a free legal case review today or call us toll free at (800) 995-1212 to speak with a member of our team. Our Case Managers are standing by to answer your questions and help determine if you have a case.

Nursing Home Ombudsman FAQs

What is an ombudsman in a nursing home?

Under the Older Americans Act (OAA), each state is required to have an ombudsman for nursing homes. Nursing home ombudsmen work as human services representatives for nursing home residents to address complaints. As a national consumer voice, they also advocate for improvement in the country’s long-term care system.

What does an ombudsman do in a nursing home?  

A nursing home ombudsman advocates for nursing home residents. They work to resolve problems and bring about change at the local, state, and national levels to improve overall conditions in nursing homes and other long-term care settings.

Some of the things an ombudsman in a nursing home may do include:

  • Advocating for improvements in providing quality long-term care
  • Educating residents about their rights
  • Providing information to the public on nursing homes
  • Representing residents to governmental agencies
  • Seeking legal, administrative, and other remedies that aim to protect residents

What complaints does a nursing home ombudsman deal with?

The complaints that nursing home ombudsmen handle frequently include:

  • Improper administration of medications
  • Improper eviction
  • Mistreatment or abuse of residents by facility staff
  • Quality of life for residents
  • Unanswered requests for help

What is the purpose of nursing home ombudsman programs?

LTC or long-term care ombudsman programs are made up of paid staff and volunteers who are trained to listen to the concerns of nursing home residents and work toward solutions. Each of the 50 states has a nursing home LTC ombudsman program.

Nursing home ombudsman programs exist to advocate for residents of long-term care facilities. They investigate and resolve complaints in addition to addressing any concerns over resident health, safety, and welfare.

Does every nursing home have an ombudsman?

By federal law, every state is required to have a nursing home ombudsman program that addresses complaints and works toward improving long-term care.

Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam all have a nursing home ombudsman program. Across the country, paid staff and thousands of volunteer ombudsmen are designated as representatives to directly serve nursing home residents.

How do I contact my local ombudsman?

You can contact your local ombudsman by visiting the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center to find the office of the state long-term care ombudsman near you.

Those who can contact their local nursing home ombudsman on behalf of a resident include: 

  • Residents on their own behalf
  • Family members, friends, or caregivers of a nursing home resident
  • Nursing home staff concerned about a resident
  • Any individual or citizen’s group concerned about the welfare of nursing home residents
  • Individuals/families considering nursing home placement
Author:Sokolove Law Team
Sokolove Law Team

Contributing Authors

The Sokolove Law Content Team is made up of writers, editors, and journalists. We work with case managers and attorneys to keep site information up to date and accurate. Our site has a wealth of resources available for victims of wrongdoing and their families.

Last modified: September 16, 2021

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