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Role of Ombudsman in Nursing Homes

Published on September 8th, 2009

I was reading an article in the Herald Democrat about the importance of ombudsman in advocating for nursing home residents.  Unfortunately, the ombudsman in South Carolina are understaffed, underbudgeted, and without any power and authority.  It is rare they get involved when a family complains and it is very rare that they conduct a proper investigation.  The article discusses how in Texas each facility is assigned an ombudsman who visits at least once a month.   At the heart of the program is patient advocacy.   For example, if a resident is complaining about not getting enough water, the ombudsman would discuss this with the staff, and correct any substantiated issue.

Many issues revolve around the staff.  The high turnover rate, low pay, understaffing, and minimal training harms the overall care level.  Though ombudsmen focus on patient advocacy, they also work closely with the nursing home staff.   The ombudsmen can sit in on care meetings between patients and administrators. 

Interestingly, the Illinois State Register-journal had an article recently about how the budget of the Ombudsman’s program was being cut  reducing the number of trained advocates who visit nursing homes to expose and prevent abuse and neglect.  Petrone said the 19 percent funding cut will result in layoffs and reductions in staff hours for people who regularly visit facilities, talk with residents and act as frontline watchdogs over an industry that serves more than 100,000 residents in 1,500 Illinois nursing homes, assisted-living and supportive-living centers.

 

Joe Pioletti
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