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PRESS RELEASE
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2009

DOEA News Release

CONTACT:
Liz Sprayberry
850-414-2327
sprayberrye@elderaffairs.org

LONG-TERM CARE OMBUDSMAN PROGRAM
RELEASES ANNUAL STATISTICS FOR FLORIDA

TALLAHASSEE – Elder advocates personally ensured the rights and welfare of nearly 184,000 Florida seniors in long-term care facilities last year, according to a report issued today by the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

The only organization of its kind advocating for long-term care residents throughout the state, the volunteer-based Ombudsman program today released its 2007-2008 annual report with recommendations for improving Florida’s long-term care system. The program, a unit of the Department of Elder Affairs, publishes yearly statistics regarding complaints investigated by each of its 17 district councils and details the program’s activities for the year. The report is submitted to state and federal decision-makers and is available to the public online at http://ombudsman.myflorida.com.

Floridians who move into licensed long-term care facilities are granted special residents’ rights by state and federal law. When the residents, their loved ones or other concerned citizens believe those rights have been ignored or violated by a facility, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is the agency called in to investigate.

Statewide in 2008, the program’s volunteer ombudsmen conducted 3,932 administrative assessments of long-term care facilities. They also responded to more than 7, 758 complaints from residents, families and concerned citizens, and gave effective representation to approximately 184,000 long-term care residents. Ombudsmen investigated complaints ranging from improper medication administration, poor menu quality and questionable billing practices to unattended symptoms, improper evictions and matters of dignity and respect.  The issue most frequently investigated overall last year involved medication administration.

“This report documents the vital advocacy services we provided last year,” said Farrell Groves, the program’s state council chairman and a volunteer ombudsman in the Lakeland area. “However, the fact that so many seniors in long-term care facilities are in need of assistance reflects a situation that deserves more attention. We can make Florida a better place to live for our frail elders if we create greater awareness of their rights. It is our hope that the findings and recommendations found in this report will do just that.”

“What our volunteer ombudsmen do is truly amazing,” said State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Brian Lee, the program’s director. “For over 30 years, this program has been working to assess and resolve issues faced by seniors in long-term care settings, and as this report demonstrates, none of it would be possible without the dedication and commitment of our volunteers.” 

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program trains and certifies its more than 400 volunteers to protect the health, safety, welfare and human and civil rights of elders residing in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes. All program services, including personalized responses to residents’ concerns, are provided at no charge, and all complaints are confidential. 

Many district councils are currently seeking more volunteers. To learn more about the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program's services and volunteer opportunities or to view the annual report, call toll-free 1-888-831-0404 or visit http://ombudsman.myflorida.com.

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