Ombudsman Program: Advocating for a Better Quality of Life
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program of the United Way Area Agency on Aging provides assistance to residents of all long-term care facilities in Jefferson County. These include nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, specialty-care facilities and boarding homes. We act as advocates for residents and their families and investigate complaints on their behalf, thereby helping ensure that the rights of residents are protected. An Ombudsman also makes unannounced visits to long-term care facilities and boarding homes on a routine basis to monitor the quality and consistency of long-term care across Jefferson County.
An Ombudsman educates residents, facility staff, family members and the general public on many issues of importance to long term-care residents. By making referrals to other agencies as needed, providing community education, meeting with resident and family councils, offering in-service training and advocating before local, state and federal government, representatives of the Ombudsman Program strive to ensure that all residents are receiving the quality of care to which they are entitled, while also respecting their privacy and confidentiality.
The resident or a family member, friend or any concerned third party may make a complaint with an Ombudsman at any time and may remain anonymous if desired. Residents are always in control of the Ombudsman’s level of involvement in their issues. Following notification of a concern, an Ombudsman will investigate and attempt to correct or resolve the problem or mediate between the parties in order to reach an agreement that is consistent with the resident’s rights and the facility’s responsibilities. The Ombudsman makes sure the resident’s voice is heard and understood while remaining focused on protecting the health, safety and rights of all long-term care residents. The primary goal is to improve the resident’s quality of life through proper, professional and compassionate care. There is no charge for using Ombudsman services.
For more information on what the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program can do for you or someone you care about, call 1-800-AGE-LINE (1-800-243-5463).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Ombudsman?
The word ombudsman (om-budz-man) is of Swedish origin and means one who speaks on behalf of another. The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program of the United Way Area Agency on Aging is composed of individuals whose main responsibility is to help residents in long-term care facilities maintain or improve their quality of life by helping ensure their rights are not violated.
What is the role of an Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman has many different roles that apply to a variety of situations. These include:
Facilitator – helping people formulate or simplify problems and complaints
Educator – providing learning materials and educational brochures to facility staff, families, residents and the community at large, thus encouraging self-help and problem solving
Broker – making referrals and monitoring the referral to see that the problem is solved
Intermediary – promoting communication among those involved in a problem
Collaborator – working with residents and staff toward mutually beneficial solutions
Mediator – bringing together all involved individuals to arrive at an agreement
Advocate – acting on behalf of others and safeguarding their rights and interests
Investigator – gathering pertinent information from many sources for impartial review
Problem solver – bringing about resolutions to problems or complaints concerning various aspects of long-term care
Who can contact an Ombudsman?
Residents, family members, friends and staff members can contact their local Ombudsman regarding any issues or complaints with a facility or facility staff member.
How can the Ombudsman be contacted?
Each facility should display a poster about the Ombudsman Program, including contact information, in clear view. In Jefferson County, the Ombudsman representatives are Morgan Rhodes and Sheree Head. They can be reached at 1-800-AGE-LINE (1-800-243-5463).
Our Volunteers Make a Life-Changing Difference
A Long-Term Care Ombudsman Volunteer is educated and certified to visit his/her assigned facility regularly, talk with residents and their families and identify concerns, issues and complaints. All reports are then directed to the local Ombudsman for investigation. Volunteers gather information but do not independently address complaints and concerns with facility staff.
Certified Ombudsman Volunteers:
- Observe and monitor the residents’ care and the quality of life
- Advocate for the rights, safety and well-being of residents, and monitor the facility’s implementation of residents’ rights
- Educate and inform residents, family members and facility staff about residents’ rights
- Encourage resident self-advocacy and self-determination to work together and with facility staff to address and resolve issues
- Follow up on problem-resolution efforts being handled by Ombudsman Program staff and volunteers
- Communicate regularly with the Ombudsman Program staff, including written facility-visit reports submitted monthly
- Attend continuing education meetings, generally held on a quarterly basis
- Maintain and ensure confidentiality
- Develop relationships based on trust and respect with residents, family members, facility administration and staff
For more information about volunteer opportunities with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, call 1-800-AGE-LINE (1-800-243-5463).