Celebrating Ombuds Day and Residents' Rights Month

October 13, 2022
Beverley Laubert, National Ombudsman Program Coordinator, Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs, ACL

Today, we join the American Bar Association in celebrating the fifth annual Ombuds Day, which was created to recognize the important role ombudsmen play, and the impact they have on people’s lives.

Originating in Sweden as an independent official to investigate complaints against government officials and agencies, the ombuds role has taken a variety of forms and adapted to a variety of needs over the last 200 years. The ACL-funded State Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Program takes an advocacy-oriented approach. Each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman led by a full-time state ombudsman. Under authority provided through the Older Americans Act, the offices investigate and resolve complaints about nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other residential care settings. 

Their work is resident-directed. Most cases — 64% in 2021 — come to the LTC ombudsman from residents themselves or their families or friends. Ombudsmen also work to resolve problems that they find through observation or discussions with residents and staff during their regular visits to LTC facilities. In fact, in 2021, seven percent of cases originated with the LTC ombudsman. Other agencies and organizations, concerned individuals, facility staff, and resident or family councils were also sources of complaints. 

The LTC ombudsman uses information gathered during an investigation to advocate for the resident and to resolve complaints to the resident’s satisfaction. Such advocacy could include educating the provider of services, negotiating a solution to the problem, empowering the resident, or seeking legal or administrative remedies. The experiences of residents also inform systems advocacy, as state LTC ombudsmen and their representatives comment on laws, regulations, and public policy. 

The LTC ombudsman helps LTC residents understand and exercise their rights, which makes it particularly fitting that Ombuds Day falls in October, when we also celebrate Residents’ Rights Month. Recognizing the effects of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s theme — Inspiring Unity within Our Community — emphasizes the importance of fostering meaningful community within facilities and encouraging residents’ connection to their local community.  Ombudsman programs around the country are working to help facilitate these important social connections. For some residents, the LTC ombudsman is their only connection to the outside community. 

Volunteers are always needed in the LTC ombudsman program to support that community connection. To find a LTC ombudsman office or to volunteer, visit the National Ombudsman Resource Center’s web site.

It is not too late to join the Residents’ Rights Month celebration. Visit the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care's promotional materials, activity suggestions, and artwork submitted by residents

Last modified on 10/13/2022

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