So you may have heard about an advocacy program for residents of nursing and rest homes called The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.
“Ombudsman” is a medieval Scandinavian term meaning “representative of the people.” But what does this actually look like in the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program?
Q. Hi Chaz and Nandi! So let’s talk Ombudsman: What is the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, and who does it serve?
A. Hi Cindy! The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is a free, volunteer-based advocacy program for people residing in nursing and rest homes. Our program covers 43 facilities throughout the Merrimack Valley. Certified Ombudsman volunteers visit about once a week to meet with residents and work to resolve complaints they may have. Ombudsman can assist any and all residents, regardless of age, income, or insurance coverage.
Q. How long has the Ombudsman Program been around?
A. The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program was created out of the Older Americans Act of 1965. Massachusetts was one of the first states to pilot the program in 1973. This is a federal program, and every state in the country has an Ombudsman, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam.
Q. How can the Ombudsman Program assist loved ones and family caregivers of residents?
A. The Ombudsman Program assists family and loved ones of residents by helping them navigate the Long Term Care setting and by directing them to the appropriate staff to address concerns. The Ombudsman Program is resident-directed, which means the Ombudsman can only work on an issue when given permission to do so by the resident. With permission, the Ombudsman can speak with staff at the facility to try to resolve issues on behalf of residents. When appropriate, the Ombudsman can work with the activated Health Care Proxy to address complaints on behalf of the resident.
Q. How can the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program assist caregivers looking to place a loved one in long term care? What advice would you give to caregivers looking for a nursing home?
A. The Ombudsman Program cannot recommend a particular facility over another. However we can share general information about facilities such as any specialties they may offer and populations they serve. We can also direct caregivers to the Department of Public Health annual recertification results, which can give a picture of what concerns have come up, and what the facility has done to address them.
Some of the best advice we can give you is take a tour of the facilities you are considering, and tour more than once! Visit during the business day, and then also perhaps on an evening or weekend to compare.
Q. Thanks for giving us such great information. Where can caregivers find out more about the Ombudsman Program?
A. For more information about the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program visit http://www.esmv.org/programs-services/long-term-care-ombudsman-program/.