Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (Ombudsman Program) assists residents of licensed long-term care facilities in protecting their health, safety, welfare, and rights.
In Colorado, long-term care ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, assisted living residences, and similar licensed adult long-term care facilities. They work to resolve individual resident issues and to bring about changes at the local, state, and national level to improve long-term care. While most residents receive good care in long-term care facilities, far too many are neglected and others are victims of psychological, physical, and other kinds of abuse. Trained ombudsmen, paid and volunteer, regularly visit long-term care facilities, monitor conditions and care, and provide a voice for those unable to speak for themselves.
The Colorado Long-Term Care Ombudsman and Legal Assistance Developer Programs 2009 Annual Report provides useful information regarding statewide and regional initiatives and needs.
Organization of the Colorado Ombudsman Program
The Colorado Department of Human Services, State Unit on Aging contracts with a not-for-profit agency, The Legal Center for People with Disabilities and Older People, to staff and administer the Office of the Colorado Long-Term Care Ombudsman. This Office is headed by the Colorado Long-Term Care Ombudsman (a.k.a. State Ombudsman). The State Ombudsman oversees the long-term care ombudsman program statewide and is responsible for providing technical assistance, certification training, and other services to the local long-term care ombudsmen.
The local long-term care ombudsman programs are administered under the direction of the regional Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). Funding for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program comes from the federal Older Americans Act, state, and local resources.
Services Provided by the Ombudsman Program
Each Ombudsman Program throughout the state is required to visit each nursing home in their area at least one time per month. Assisted living residences in their area must be visited at least one time each quarter. Licensed facilities are required to allow ombudsmen to enter the facility and visit with residents, without interference from facility staff. Routine visits involve a general overview of the facility to ensure that common areas are clean, required notices are posted, and meals and activities are being provided as posted, among other things. The routine visits involve meeting with individual residents to ensure that their care needs are being met.
The Ombudsman Program receives complaints from residents, family members, and others and, with the resident's consent, investigates the complaints. Complaints are typically received by telephone or may arise during a routine visit. The role of the ombudsman is to act as an advocate for the resident and assist the resident in resolving issues related to care, health, safety, or the resident's rights. Complaints range from simple quality of care issues, such as a resident's perferred time for breakfast, to very serious, sometimes life-threatening, concerns involving abuse and neglect. When necessary, the ombudsman will work cooperatively with other agencies such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which licenses long-term care facilities, local law enforcement, and Adult Protective Services to resolve concerns identified during a complaint investigation.
Local ombudsmen can provide assistance in locating a facility that best meets the needs of the prospective resident.
The ombudsman is able to provide guidance to residents, family members, or friends who would like to resolve an issue without ombudsman intervention.
Other services include attending family and resident council meetings at a licensed facility, providing community education, and providing training to facility staff and other professional agencies that work with at-risk adults and residents of long-term care facilities.
Contacting An Ombudsman
Each licensed long-term care facility is required to display a poster with the facility's assigned ombudsman's name and contact information. If you are a resident or family member of a resident in a facility, call the ombudsman listed on the poster; OR
Call the local Area Agency on Aging and ask to speak with a long-term care ombudsman.