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Contact Your Area’s Ombudsman for Care Concerns

Nursing home residents and their families have a powerful advocate on their side, in the North Carolina Ombudsman Program.

North Carolina’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program consists of state and regional ombudsmen who help residents of long-term care facilities to exercise their rights. In addition advocating for residents, ombudsmen educate the public and facility staff about residents rights. They help resolve grievances between residents/families and facilities. These regional ombudsmen are located within the local Area Agencies on Aging.

The services provided by the Ombudsman Program include:

    • Answering questions and giving guidance about the long term care system. An ombudsman will:
      • explain long-term care options, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
      • give pointers on how to select a long-term care facility provide information on specific facilities (such as the latest and past certification reports and complaint information).
      • explain residents’ rights and other federal and state laws and regulations affecting long term care facilities and residents.
      • give guidance on the Medicaid and Medicare programs–specifically qualification criteria, application procedures and what services these programs cover.
      • provide information on such matters such as powers of attorney, living wills and guardianship.
    • Educating community groups and long-term care providers on various topics such as residents’ rights, restraint use, care planning, activities and new laws.
    • Investigating and assessing matters to help families, residents and families resolve concerns and problems. Common areas of complaints include:
      • medical and personal services being provided to residents such as problems with medication, nutrition and hygiene
      • financial concerns such as handling of residents’ funds, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security
      • rights of residents, such as the right to be treated with courtesy and to have individual requests and preferences respected
      • nursing home administrative decisions, such as admission to or discharge from a facility.
    • Raising long term care issues of concern to policymakers.

Disagreements with nursing homes arise in various contexts, including the quality of food, troublesome roommates, lack of privacy, or services not meeting what was promised. Often the first step is to speak with the nursing home staff member and then working up through supervisors and administrators. Many disputes can be satisfactorily resolved in this way. But if not, your next step should be to contact the local ombudsman assigned to the nursing home.

An ombudsman does not work for the nursing home. Instead, the ombudsman’s job is funded through the government, and he or she is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, adult care homes (including assisted living facilities). Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state must have an ombudsman program to address residents’ complaints and to advocate for improvements in the long-term care system. Ombudsmen do not have authority to require action by a facility, but as they are familiar with the system and they are trained to spot issues and resolve complaints and concerns. They have the responsibility to negotiate on a resident’s behalf and to work with other state agencies for effective enforcement.

Every statewide program is usually composed of several regional or local ombudsman programs that operate within an Area Agency on Aging or other community organization. To find the ombudsman nearest you, contact the ombudsman office in your state, which can be found here.

Article source and reference for further information:  North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services Ombudsman Program.

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