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Nursing homes: the role of the long-term care ombudsman

Who truly advocates for nursing home residents in New Jersey and across the United States when they face issues of nursing home negligence or abuse?

Obviously, of course, family members are usually at the forefront of advocacy for those they love who live in assisted-care facilities, but that care comes with a notable limitation: Family members visit care facilities rather than live in them, so their understanding and input on matters can sometimes be less than comprehensive, and even seem negligible at times.

Professional staff members obviously have a deep responsibility to adequately care for those who depend upon them, and a wealth of diverse sources indicate that, in most cases, they do just that, with competence, compassion and diligence.

But not always.

And when instances of neglect -- ranging from shoddy care to patients' compromised safety -- do occur, it is critical that residents have a voice and an advocate to make things right.

That is the role of the state long-term care ombudsman, a person with oversight and investigatory powers who works with state officials to improve nursing home care.

New Jersey and every other state in the country has such an advocate, and has since 1972, when a federal program was established. That program -- fashioned out of the Older Americans Act -- relies on both state and federal funding, with the latter supplying about $87 million a year.

Ombudsmen differ in each state, both as to their autonomy and where their office is located. In some states, they are virtually independent of government, operating out of nonprofit or legal-help organizations. In other states, such as New Jersey, the state ombudsmen is appointed by the governor and has ready access to state decision makers, resources and staff.

Regardless of structure and placement, the role of a state ombudsman (most states also have a number of local ombudsmen, as well) is to visit nursing homes, note complaints, raise relevant issues with authorities and advocate for improvement.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence or neglect, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: Kaiser Health News, "Long-term care ombudsmen face challenges to independence," Jenni Bergal, Jan. 28, 2013

  • Please visit our New Jersey Nursing Home Negligence page for information on this subject and our firm's uncompromising representation of nursing home residents with legal questions and concerns.

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