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What is an Ombudsman?

By Chris Loftus  
May 10, 2009

Webster defines an ombudsman as ."one that investigates reported complaints, reports findings and helps to achieve equitable settlements." Florida's Department of Elder Affairs defines this program as "The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a volunteer-based organization seeking to improve the quality of life of frail, vulnerable elders who live in long-term care settings, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes by directly responding to their concerns. The program operates under the authority of federal and state law." This resource has been available for years. It is a requirement that information be posted in these facilities but for reasons unknown, the usage of ombudsman is limited.

Living in a facility is obviously not being in a private home. While facilities' goals are to provide their residents the best care possible, there are situations that may need correction by the administration of a facility. This may be when an ombudsman may be called by an interested and concern by an interested party, family or friend. This call is treated confidently. An ombudsman will be assigned to make an unannounced visit to the facility. Depending on the complaint, other residents may also be visited, but only with permission. In many cases, it is an individual situation and the ombudsman will talk to various individuals that are providing care to the person.

After the visit the ombudsman will give verification of the complaint or not. In most cases, the resolutions can be corrected with communication between the complainant, the administration of the facility and the person concerned. In more difficult cases, a referral can be made to ACHA, (the Florida State Agency of Health Care Association) or to another professional entity for resolution.

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