What Is the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program?

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) is federally funded. An amendment to the Older Americans Act (OOA) created it.

Each state has an office of the state long-term care ombudsman program. They are tasked with preserving the well-being and rights of residents statewide. This includes investigating and resolving complaints on behalf of residents of:

  • Nursing facilities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Board and care facilities
  • Other adult care homes

An LTC ombudsman serves as an advocate for adult care residents. They work with law enforcement and other area agencies to ensure your loved one receives good care.

The Purpose of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

In 1972, the federal government funded ombudsperson programs in five states. In 1978, the federal government required all states to implement ombudsman programs.

Ombudsman services include:

  • Resolving complaints made by residents against long-term care providers and facility staff
  • Informing nursing home residents on whether they qualify for Medicaid or Medicare services
  • Investigating quality of care for residents of long-term care facilities
  • Helping create family council and citizen advocacy groups to combat elder abuse
  • Representing the interests of residents before government agencies and other organizations
  • Seeking administrative, legal, and other remedies to protect residents' health, safety, and welfare
  • Providing information on laws that affect the health and safety of adult care residents
  • Holding caregivers responsible for elder abuse and neglect

Ombudsman services do not include:

  • Participating in investigations or formal resolution processes
  • Overturning any decisions of existing dispute resolution or appellate bodies
  • Compromising the neutrality of the Ombudsman's Office
  • Mandating residential health care facility policies

Ombudspeople Investigations of Complaints

The Administration on Aging is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This administration works to carry out the OOA's laws and requirements.

They keep track of ombudsperson investigations and complaints. Complaints are usually filed by adult care residents or their family members. Ombudsperson program staff and volunteers also visit long-term care facilities.

In 2017, ombudsman programs visited 68% of all U.S. nursing homes and 30% of all board and care facilities. Ombudsman programs worked to resolve about 201,460 complaints in 2017. About 73% of these complaints were resolved to the satisfaction of the resident or complainant.

The most common resident complaints involve:

  • Wrongful eviction
  • Unanswered requests for assistance
  • Lack of respect shown to residents
  • Poor quality of life in a care facility
  • Issues with medication

Ombudspeople as Advocates

The OOA requires ombudspersons to act as advocates for long-term care residents.

Common forms of advocacy include:

  • Procedural advocacy: Coordinating with each other and with other government agencies to better respond to residents' needs
  • Issue Advocacy: Identifying complaint trends to notify government agencies, care facilities, and the public of these trending concerns
  • Legislative advocacy: Analyzing state and federal laws and regulations on behalf of adult care residents

Ombudsperson Independence and Controversies

Long-term care ombudsperson programs are independent. They can act on behalf of adult care residents without interference.

Most ombudsperson programs exist within a state's Department of Aging. There have been many controversies around ombudsman programs in recent years.

In 2011, Florida's governor allegedly forced the resignation of the state's long-term care ombudsman. This was due to a contentious relationship between the two. This led to a state Senate hearing and a federal investigation.

In 2012, California passed a law strengthening the independence of the state's ombudspersons. This law was due to complaints of an inability to disagree with other state officials' views.

The change in the law requires California's ombudsperson program to:

  • Develop an annual advocacy report
  • Reestablish an inactive advocacy council
  • Maintain an updated website for adult care residents

Getting Help

Find contact information for your state's ombudsperson program to learn more. Signs are usually posted at adult care facilities. These signs should provide the contact information for your local ombudsman.

If you have questions about your rights under the Older Americans Act, consult an older adult law attorney.

Was this helpful?

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Situations that involve a breach of rights usually require a lawyer
  • A lawyer will take these matters seriously and enforce protections
  • Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

 If you need an attorney, find one right now