When we move to long-term care facilities, we do not lose interest in being involved with our communities.
Our roots are here. We want to still feel at home.
We should not lose our rights, either. We may need access to resources or advocates to help us out at times while we live in facilities. Our ombudsmen representatives ask, “What does the resident want?” Then they listen. We work together, if desired, on a plan to obtain information, provide education, or push for changes.
What is an Ombudsman?
The Swedish word “ombudsman” means “a public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against local or national government agencies that may be infringing on the rights of individuals.” This concept has been adapted in many U.S. settings to include complaints against non-governmental organizations and advocacy for individuals and groups of individuals, as with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.
By What Authority Do Ombudsmen Act?
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program has operated for many years in all States under the Older Americans Act. It was begun in 1972 as a demonstration program. Many states have also enacted long-term care ombudsman program statutes. At the state level, an Office of the State Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman headed by a full-time State LTC Ombudsman directs the program. The State LTC Ombudsman designates staff and volunteers as representatives to serve residents of long-term care facilities. In Georgia, the State LTC Ombudsman designates agencies in six regions to operate local LTC Ombudsman programs and certifies their staff and volunteers. CADRE is designated as the operator of the West Region, consisting of 18 counties.
What Do Ombudsmen Do?
In Georgia’s West Region, ombudsmen make routine visits to long-term care facilities throughout the 18-county area to give the residents access to services. Ombudsmen explain their role and seek to build trusting relationships. Residents’ concerns—whether shared during a visit, by phone, or via a third party or another method—are kept confidential unless residents give permission for the ombudsmen to share them. With permission, ombudsmen work with and on behalf of residents to resolve complaints related to residents’ health, safety, welfare, and rights. Ombudsmen provide information about long-term care and residents’ rights to the residents and others, and sometimes provide in-services to facility staff. They promote policies and consumer protections intended to improve long-term care. Ombudsmen also provide technical support for resident and family councils to address the well-being and rights of residents.
Can Ombudsmen Sanction Facilities?
Ombudsman Representatives do not have authority to compel a long-term care facility to comply with any directive or to issue a deficiency or impose a fine for substandard performance. The facilities are regulated by Healthcare Facility Regulation (HFR), a division of the Georgia Department of Community Health, which conducts periodic inspections and investigates allegations of mistreatment at the hands of the facility and failure to comply with regulations. Complaints may be filed with HFR online.
HFR must be able to substantiate a deficient practice in order to issue a sanction for violation. Complainants sometimes seek assistance from the Ombudsman Program in addition to HFR.
Helpful Links and Downloads
- Authorizing Legislation: Older Americans Act (OAA)
- Under Privacy Rule (HIPAA), Ombudsmen Have Access to Residents’ Records
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, GA Code
- Retaliation against resident and interference with ombudsman prohibited, GA Code
- Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Georgia)
- El Programa de Ombudsman de Cuidados a Largo Plazo de Georgia folleto (Español)
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program fact sheet
- Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: What You Must Know
- What is a Long-Term Care Ombudsman? (video)
- History and Role of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program