Senior Man with CaneWhen our parents or loved ones are admitted to a long term care facility such as an assisted living facility , a nursing home, a skilled nursing facility or a board and care home, we are putting our trust into those that are now caring for them.

Usually, the care provided is as good as it can be given the circumstances, but sometimes the care is less than adequate or can even be full of neglect and abuse.  When we see signs of possible neglect or abuse, we wonder how we can deal with it and not create a bad relationship with the staff of the facility thereby subjecting our loved one to even more punishment.

If the abuse is blatant, it’s an easy call……..get the loved one out of the facility and have charges filed.  But when you simply have a suspicion, a niggling fear that something is not quite right, it’s hard to know what to do.

That is the time to call in a long-term care ombudsman.

A long-term care ombudsman is an official advocate for residents of long-term care facilities.  Under the Federal Older Americans Act, every state must have an ombudsman program.  This program consists of both volunteer and paid members.

Their goals are to provide information on how to find a facility that provides quality long-term care, to assist with complaints and resolve problems in such facilities, to educate both consumers and long-term care providers on patient’s rights, legislative policy, and ways that families and providers can work together.  They also provide community involvement through their volunteer programs.

When working with patients or patient’s family member regarding a complaint, all information is kept confidential, unless the patient or family requests otherwise.

Problems that they address are violations of resident’s rights or dignity, physical, verbal or mental abuse, deprivation of services or poor quality of care (for example, lack of hygenic care, not turning the resident to prevent bedsores, etc.), unreasonable confinement, improper transfer or discharge of patient (when money runs out, etc.), and use of chemical or physical restraints that are in appropriate.

According to The National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, the rights of long-term care residents are as follows:

  • The right of citizenship. Nursing home residents do not lose any of their rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, to religious freedom and to associate with whom they choose.
  • The right to dignity. Residents of nursing homes are honored guests and have the right to be so treated.
  • The right to privacy. Nursing home residents have the right to privacy whenever possible, including the right to privacy with their spouse, the right to have their medical and personal records treated in confidence, and the right to private, uncensored communication.
  • The right to personal property. Nursing home residents have the right to possess and use personal property and to manage their financial affairs.
  • The right to information. Nursing home residents have the right to information, including the regulations of the home and the costs for services rendered. They also have the right to participate in decisions about any treatment, including the right to refuse treatment.
  • The right of freedom. Nursing home residents have the right to be free from mental or physical abuse and from physical or chemical restraint unless ordered by their physician.
  • The right to care. Residents have the right to equal care, treatment and services provided by the facility without discrimination.
  • The right of residence. Nursing home residents have the right to live at the home unless they violate publicized regulations. They may not be discharged without timely and proper notification to both the resident and the family or guardian.
  • The right of expression. Nursing home residents have the right to exercise their rights, including the right to file complaints and grievances without fear or reprisal.

If you feel that your loved one has been denied any of these rights in the facility in which they are residing, don’t hesitate to contact a long-term care ombudsman in your state.  Call 1-800-300-6222 or check The National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center to find resources in your state.



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