You may have heard the word ‘ombudsmen’ before, but only had a vague idea what it meant.
The Arizona Ombudsman-Citizen’s Aide is the independent agency of the Arizona legislature that serves citizens who believe that a state agency, state administrator, state department or state board has mistreated them.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) is the program that helps nursing home residents and families of nursing home residents fight against abuse, neglect and improper care. The LTCO’s goal is to identify, investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents of long term care facilities.
In Arizona, an ombudsman is defined as an impartial dispute resolution specialist who has broad powers to investigate and to make recommendations, but no authority to make or reverse a decision.
When it comes to nursing home residents, ombudsmen can provide assistance when a dispute arises between a resident and the facility. Ombudsmen are neutral mediators whose job is to help bring about a resolution to a problem.
Let’s take a look at how ombudsmen may be able to help you when a problem occurs at a nursing home facility.
THE MANY ROLES OF OMBUDSMEN
Ombudsmen can play several roles when it comes to helping clients pursue a resolution of a dispute, including disputes at nursing home facilities.
These roles include:
- Advocate – This means that an ombudsman works on behalf of a nursing home resident or the family of a nursing home resident to resolve an issue. As an advocate, ombudsmen may attempt to negotiate with the supervisors of the nursing home, or with the caregivers at a nursing home. They can also file a greivance on behalf of a nursing home resident, or represent a group of residents who have a common complaint.
- Mediator – In the role of a mediator, ombudsmen become intermediaries between a nursing home and a resident who has expressed dissatisfaction with some aspect of their care. They may also act as mediators between a nursing home and a government agency, a nursing home and a community organization, and a nursing home and law enforcement groups. The goal of mediation is to find the best resolution that all sides deem acceptable. In some instances, a lack of communication lies at the root of the problem, and an ombudsman can resolve the issue by presenting the views of both sides. In other instances, resolution either requires compromise, or requires that procedures be amended or eliminated to bring about satisfaction for the nursing home resident.
- Educator – As an educator, ombudsmen try to provide information to nursing homes, nursing home residents, the families of nursing home residents, and community organizations regarding best practices. Because LTCO ombudsmen have in-depth knowledge of nursing home patient rights and responsibilities, they are a great resource for anyone who wants to understand how to select a nursing home, and the specific rights residents have at long-term care facilities.
DUTIES OF LONG-TERM CARE OMBUDSMEN
The role of an ombudsman differs depending on the duties that this person performs, and the most common duties of these professionals include:
- Protecting the health, safety and welfare of nursing home residents
- Investigating complaints on behalf of nursing home residents that compromise their health, safety and rights
- Providing educational information and helpful resources to nursing home residents and their families
- Referring cases of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, as well as neglect, to state agencies that can provide immediate protection for those residents
- Reviewing existing nursing home laws, procedures and policies to ensure that they do not infringe on the rights of nursing home residents
- Protecting the rights of nursing home residents to seek assistance from the LTCO program, and ensuring that nursing home residents are assigned an ombudsman for their complaints.
In order to perform these duties, every state allows ombudsmen to lawfully enter a nursing home facility for the purpose of communicating with residents who have made complaints.
MOST COMMON SERVICES PROVIDED BY OMBUDSMEN
Much of an ombudsman’s time is spent investigating nursing home resident complaints that are reported to the program, whether directly by the resident, the resident’s family or a concerned citizen, which could include a staff member at the nursing home.
Complaints vary, but many involve the lack of care provided at a nursing home and accusations of abuse and neglect by nurses and caregivers at the facility.
LTCO has the power to investigate and report incidents of resident abuse and refer cases to other organizations that can look deeper into the situation.
In attempting to resolve a complaint, ombudsmen can communicate with local law enforcement when complaints involve a possible crimes, such as physical or sexual assault, theft or harassment.
Ombudsmen may also serve as liaisons with the local prosecutor’s office when a complaint results in criminal charges against a nursing home caregiver.
FIGHTING NURSING HOME ABUSE
Ombudsmen provide a number of key roles and offer services that can be invaluable to a nursing home resident, or the family of a resident. If your complaints are not resolved to your satisfaction, you should obtain the services of an experienced personal injury law firm, such as the team at Miller Kory Rowe LLP.