I recently had the pleasure of interacting with my regional ombudsperson. I had contacted her because of an issue with a client at a nursing home. I hadn’t needed an ombudsperson in the past but the situation warranted a powerful and swift intervention.
The Massachusetts Department of Health describes the Ombudsperson program: “Life in a nursing or rest home is not always easy. Many residents are alone, and feeling powerless. A Long Term Care Ombudsman is an advocate for residents living in long term care facilities. Ombudsmen offer a way for residents and their loved ones to voice their complaints and have their concerns addressed so that residents can live their lives with dignity and respect.”
The greatest gift an Ombudsperson gives to residents, caregivers and families is a voice. He/She will investigate complaints and refer to the state appropriate state agency if required. For instance, if a resident is not getting timely necessary medical care, the ombudsperson will review the chart, speak to the nursing home administrators and find a solution.
Many families fear retaliation for filing a complaint. It is a very common and real fear. Nursing homes don’t like surprise visits or to be called to task on discrepancies. The ombudsperson will do everything to make sure that doesn’t happen. It would not go well for the nursing home of things got worse for the resident. No nursing home wants to be on the radar of the state.
What impressed me most was I received a call back within 30 minutes. The ombudsperson immediately was attentive, understanding and supportive. She told me she would visit the facility that day and report back. The situation was resolved within 24 hours.
Each state has their own system. To find an ombudsperson in your state, go to the state and go to the elder affairs page. Or search for ombudsman. You can also go to http://www.ltcombudsman.org/ , The National Long Term Ombudsman Resource Center.
Don’t hesitate to call. The ombudsperson is there to support families. Let the ombudsperson resolve the problem.