Specialized Information for:

Nursing HomesAssisted Living/Board & Care Home and Community Based Services

About the Ombudsman Program

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What Does an Ombudsman Do?

Long-term care Ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are trained to resolve problems. If you want, the Ombudsman can assist you with complaints. However, unless you give the Ombudsman permission to share your concerns, these matters are kept confidential. Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system.

The Ombudsman program is administered by the Administration on Aging (AoA)/Administration for Community Living (ACL).  The network has 4,049 volunteers certified to handle complaints and 1,835 paid staff. Most state Ombudsman programs are housed in their State Unit on Aging.  Nationally, in 2022 the Ombudsman program investigated over 198,502 complaints and provided information on long-term care to another 407,817 people.

Visit the ACL website for more information.

Whether through individual contact with residents or systemic advocacy, Ombudsmen make a difference in the lives of residents in long-term care facilities everyday.

A Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

  • Resolves complaints made by or for residents of long-term care facilities
  • Educates consumers and long-term care providers about residents' rights and good care practices
  • Promotes community involvement through volunteer opportunities
  • Provides information to the public on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and services, residents' rights and legislative and policy issues
  • Advocates for residents' rights and quality care in nursing homes, personal care, residential care and other long-term care facilities
  • Promotes the development of citizen organizations, family councils and resident councils
  • Long-term care Ombudsmen efforts are summarized in the National Ombudsman Reporting System (Click here for current NORS data) to include the number of facilities visited, the types of complaints handled and the kinds of complaints filed with Ombudsmen. Data has been collected since 1996 and gives a good picture of the extent of ombudsman activities nationally and in every state.



The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Infographic
This Ombudsman program infographic has been created to give a brief overview of the work Ombudsman programs do and the impact they have around the nation. View and download the printable infographic here.





Fact Sheet - Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program: What You Must Know
This resource walks readers through what the long-term care Ombudsman program is, what the Ombudsman program does and does not do, links to information on residents’ rights, and some helpful FAQs.



The Who, What, Where, Why, and How of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (2022)

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman program (LTCOP) advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, and assisted living facilities. LTCOPs address a variety of complaints regarding the quality of life and care of individuals living in long-term care facilities. Program representatives also provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care.

Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system. This presentation reviews the program responsibilities required by federal law so the information is applicable in every state. Attendees will gain an understanding about what the LTCOP does, who the LTCOP serves, and how to contact the program.

LTCOP representatives can use this presentation when training potential LTCOP representatives, during Resident Council and Family Council meetings, community education, and in-services for facility staff. 

View the slides as a PDF or PPT.

Infographic: Are you new to the Ombudsman program? Here is what you need to know

This infographic provides a step-by-step checklist for new Ombudsmen to acquaint themselves with NORC and includes links to important webpages and resources, information about the Ombudsman program, the sign-up page for our email listserv, and our email address if you have any technical assistance questions.

Tips for Using This New Resource

1. If you are new to the Ombudsman program, download and review it, and share it with your peers.
2. If you hire paid representatives and/or work with volunteer representatives, include this resource in their welcome and orientation materials for initial training.
3. Share this resource on your program’s social media accounts.


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What Concerns Does an Ombudsman Address?

  • Violation of residents' rights or dignity
  • Physical, verbal, or mental abuse, deprivation of services necessary to maintain residents' physical and mental health, or unreasonable confinement
  • Poor quality of care, including inadequate personal hygiene and slow response to requests for assistance
  • Improper transfer or discharge of patient
  • Inappropriate use of chemical or physical restraints
  • Any resident concern about quality of care or quality of life

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What are Residents' Rights?

  • The right of citizenship. Nursing home residents do not lose any of their rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, to religious freedom and to associate with whom they choose.
  • The right to dignity. Residents of nursing homes are honored guests and have the right to be so treated.
  • The right to privacy. Nursing home residents have the right to privacy whenever possible, including the right to privacy with their spouse, the right to have their medical and personal records treated in confidence, and the right to private, uncensored communication.
  • The right to personal property. Nursing home residents have the right to possess and use personal property and to manage their financial affairs.
  • The right to information. Nursing home residents have the right to information, including the regulations of the home and the costs for services rendered. They also have the right to participate in decisions about any treatment, including the right to refuse treatment.
  • The right of freedom. Nursing home residents have the right to be free from mental or physical abuse and from physical or chemical restraint unless ordered by their physician.
  • The right to care. Residents have the right to equal care, treatment and services provided by the facility without discrimination.
  • The right of residence. Nursing home residents have the right to live at the home unless they violate publicized regulations. They may not be discharged without timely and proper notification to both the resident and the family or guardian.
  • The right of expression. Nursing home residents have the right to exercise their rights, including the right to file complaints and grievances without fear or reprisal.

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Who Can Use an Ombudsman's Services?

  • Residents of any nursing home or board and care facility, including assisted living facilities
  • A family member or friend of a nursing home resident
  • A nursing home administrator or employee with a concern about a resident at their facility
  • Any individual or citizen's group interested in the welfare of residents
  • Individuals and families who are considering long-term care placement

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How Can I Get Involved?

Visit residents frequently. If you don't know a resident, call the Ombudsman for suggestions of facilities that need visitation.

Report concerns about poor care or other problems to the Ombudsman program. Volunteer to be an Ombudsman in your community. To find the Ombudsman program in your area, click here.

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  The Why and What of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

This video provides a detailed discussion on the history of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program and the work that Ombudsmen across the country do on a daily basis to help residents of long-term care facilities.

Featuring Elma Holder, the founder of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, formerly the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR); Sue Wheaton, former Ombudsman Specialist with the Administration on Aging; and facilitated by William Benson, Health Benefits ABC.


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