3 Things to Know About a LTC Ombudsman
Updated: Jun 30
"When I get to where I can't do for myself, y'all just put me in a nursing home," said my grandmother years ago. Today, she has gotten to where she can't do a whole lot for herself, but her instruction for moving her into a nursing home has gone in one ear and out of the other. I think I can speak for my family when I say, a nursing home is not a place where we want her to go.
I'm not too fond of nursing homes. Why? Maybe it's because of the many horror stories I've heard and things I've witnessed on my own that would make me say,"hell nah." If we are fearful of facing ageism out in the community, imagine the fear that adults who reside in a long-term care community have. Some "bad apples" have definitely spoiled it for the bunch in my mind, but there's still hope that my perspective on long-term care communities can change lol. This isn't to say that every nursing home is horrible, so if you work in a long-term care community, don't be over there giving me the side-eye. I know the importance of long-term care communities and I see their value, I just want the conditions for some of them to change.
*Please take note that I say long-term care community (LTCC) instead of facility because I'm sure no one refers to his/her home as a "facility."*
What is an Ombudsman?
There are some families who have no other choice but to place their loved ones in a nursing home. At times it is the best decision because the loved one will get the most appropriate level of care. In those situations, many people may be worried about the well-being of their loved ones, who reside in a LTCC. To alleviate some of that fear, that is where an ombudsman comes in handy. Many people are unaware of programs such as the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program (LTCO) and I want to bring awareness to it.
An Ombudsman is someone who works to resolve any complaints that a resident of a long-term care community (nursing home/assisted living home) may have between other residents, family, and staff members. Ombudsmen play a major role in the lives of residents and are seen as advocates and educators. Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman program that will advocate for residents.
Three Things to Know About an Ombudsman
1. Advocate: When one resides in a LTCC, he/she has what is known as residents' rights. As an advocate, Ombudsmen are determined to make sure that those rights are not being violated. They also advocate for residents to receive proper care and their quality of life. You know how it is when your child, or friend comes to you about an issue, or someone is bothering them? You're instantly ready to go to-toe-to-toe with WHOMEVER! Yeah, well with an Ombudsman it may not be as intense as my example, but they will definitely address the matter with whomever is involved. The only thing is, the resident must give permission to that Ombudsman to disclose any information he/she has given.
The type of complaints that residents contact Ombudsmen about can vary. The most common are disrespect, improper discharge, poor food quality, and issues with medication. To learn more about these complaints, check this out.
2. Educate: Real talk, my dream job back in undergrad was to be an Ombudsman. Of course, I was rejected when I applied, but it's all good. I like their role of being an educator to people. Education is always key, hence why Gero-what?! exists. Anyway, off the topic of me and back to Ombudsmen and how they educate the people. So, Ombudsmen educate staff and the community about residents' rights, elder abuse, care planning, the long-term care system, choosing a LTCC, and the list goes on and on, and on and on (*singing in my Erykah Badu voice. To learn more about the resources and information that Ombudsmen provide, here's a cool link.
3. Escalate: There are times when an Ombudsman addresses complaints and there is no immediate resolve. At that time, the resident has the choice to have the issue escalated where the state, other agencies, or the Law Enforcement will be involved. Just like in school when your teacher confronted you about an issue and your behavior didn't change, you had to head to the Principal's office. One thing I want to make crystal clear is that Ombudsmen do not replace adult protective services or state licensing agencies. So, when an issue is out of their hands and a resident does not have legal representation, the Ombudsman can bring other agencies into the picture.
Why Are We Talking About This?
I'm sure we've all heard of the nightmares that have gone on inside of a LTCC. Ranging from all forms of abuse to sometimes, unfortunately, death. I came across a news article last week that someone posted on good ol' Facebook, with the title "No One Knew She Was Dead." So, you already know I was intrigued. The article talked about a 41-year-old woman being found dead in a nursing home. I can't imagine if my loved one was found dead and none of the staff knew, when it is their job to look after the safety of all residents. This made me think about the understaffing, the underpaying, and the lack of training that are evident in many LTCC's. Ombudsmen work to make sure that living conditions, staff education, and resident care are meeting standards.
Ombudsmen give many people a voice and an outlet. Not many people say their hope is to reside in a nursing home, but circumstances present themselves and that's their only option. It's a different environment and can at times be intimidating, which is where an Ombudsman can come in. Ombudsmen can be there to hold the hand of a resident and guide them in the right direction as it relates to his/her quality of care.
Since many people are not familiar with what an Ombudsman is, or how they operate, I felt it was my duty to educate the people. You or someone you know may not be in need of an Ombudsman right now, but should that day ever present itself, you have the necessary information.
The More You Know
Welp, this is something else that can be stored in your brain! The more you know, the more you grow. I've heard several people in the past say they wish they would have known something like an Ombudsman existed before matters for their loved one got worse. There are some resources that people do not hear about until a situation has gotten out of control. I want you to know about things before something harmful or unpleasant arises. I mean that's what this whole aging thing is about. We have the power of being as prepared as possible, but we also acknowledge that in life some things are out of our control.
I hope this was helpful to you and if you know of anyone who is in need of an Ombudsman, here are the links that were given above.
Check out my latest YouTube video, where I give a brief description of what an Ombudsman is!
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