Handles Complaints

First, an ombudsman supports residents and families to resolve any problems or differences with the facility staff by defining concerns, explaining rights and identifying possible courses of action.

An ombudsman can help resolve the problem(s) in most cases; however, complaints involving serious abuse or neglect are referred to the appropriate agency.

In all situations, confidentially is maintained and no information is released without permission of the resident or legal guardian.

Provides Information and Assistance

An ombudsman is a good source of information about selecting a long-term care facility, eligibility criteria, and other services for the elderly. Regional programs present facts about facilities. Residents' rights are a focus of the program.

Advocates with Other Organizations

State and regional Ombudsman programs work cooperatively with other advocacy and membership organizations to comment on and recommend legislation and regulatory changes that affect older Texans. Staff routinely serves on boards and committees of other organizations and actively advocate for policies to promote quality of care.

Major Areas of Complaint Activity Residents' Rights

The resident has a right to a dignified existence, self-determination and communication and access to persons and services inside and outside the nursing facility.

Resident Care

Each resident must receive and the facility must provide the necessary care and services to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psycho social well- being according to his or her comprehensive assessment and plan of care.

Quality of Life

A facility must care for its resident in a manner and an environment that promotes maintenance or enhancement of each resident's quality of life (respect for individual, participation in groups and activities, and accommodation of needs). It must use its resources effectively and efficiently to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psycho-social well-being

History and Overview

Ombudsman means "citizen representative" according to its 1700s Swedish origin. An ombudsman investigates reported complaints, reports findings, and helps to achieve equitable settlements. In 1978, Congress amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 to establish the long-term care ombudsman program to serve a vulnerable nursing home population. An ombudsmen helps one person resolve a problem, addresses issues that affect several residents, or works collectively to change a systemic problem. Texas long-term care ombudsmen represent facility residents.

The Texas Ombudsman Program advocates for quality of life and quality of care for all residents in long-term care facilities. By state and federal authority, ombudsmen identify, investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents. They provide services to protect health, safety, welfare and rights. In addition, they support the development and operation of family and resident councils.

Through twenty-eight area agencies on aging (AAA), certified ombudsmen (staff and specially trained volunteers) serve residents, their families, and friends. Professional staff supervise the volunteers. Certified volunteer ombudsmen complete a training course, internship, and twelve hours of continuing education per year.

To promote quality of care, the program works with professionals, advocacy and membership organizations that are interested in long-term care and elder rights issues and coordinates with regulatory agencies.