In 1972 the federal Administration on Aging (AoA) recognized the growing number of complaints received about care provided to older persons living in nursing homes. It appeared that formal regulatory processes were not completely effective in achieving resident satisfaction and quality care, and despite having a formal complaint process state licensing and regulating agencies were not able to positively impact resident care and treatment. It was proposed that a program designed for the sole purpose of resolving care and treatment concerns by assisting nursing home residents in speaking out for themselves might better serve the long term care consumer.
Begun in 1972 as a demonstration program, the Long Term Care Ombudsman program today is established in all states under the Older Americans Act, which is administered by the Administration on Aging. Local and state ombudsmen work on behalf of thousands of long term care service consumers in communities around the country. The role of the ombudsman goes beyond the scope of regulation. While regulators are limited to enforcement, the Ombudsman Program is specially designed to serve solely as a voice and advocate for the long term care consumer.
Ombudsman Responsibilities Outlined in the Older Americans Act
- Identify, investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of long term care consumers;
- Provide information about long term care services;
- Represent the interests of long term care consumers before governmental agencies and seek administrative, legal and other remedies to protect consumers;
- Analyze, comment on and recommend changes in laws and regulations pertaining to health, safety, welfare and rights of consumers;
- Educate and inform long term care consumers and the general public regarding issues and concerns related to long term care, and facilitate public comment on laws, regulations, policies and actions;
- Provide technical support for the development of resident and family councils to protect the well-being and rights of residents; and
- Advocate for changes to improve long term care consumers' quality of life and care.