Nursing Home Complaints? The Ombudsman Is on Your Side

nursing home complaints

Expert help for problems with a care facility

Some assisted living communities and nursing homes provide wonderful care for their residents. Others are…not so good, to put it mildly.

If your senior isn’t getting proper care from their care community, you have no choice but to try to get them to address the problems. After all, moving them to another place isn’t something you can do on a whim.

But when the administration ignores complaints, it feels like the whole system is working against you and there’s nothing you can do.

You don’t have to fight the system alone! You can get free expert help from your local ombudsman. They’re insiders who help you get care community problems resolved.


What is an ombudsman?

A long term care ombudsman is an advocate for residents of nursing homes, residential care homes, and assisted living communities.

They handle complaints and advocate for improvements in the long term care system. They’re also the ones who can tell you more about care facilities and resident rights.


It’s a free government program

The Ombudsman Program is completely free to use. It’s a government program under the Administration on Aging (AoA).

In 2013, the ombudsman program investigated over 190,512 complaints on behalf of 123,666 people across the U.S.. They also provided information on long term care to 335,088 people.


Whatever you say is confidential

If you want, the ombudsman can help you with any complaints or issues you’re having with the care community.

You can feel safe when you contact your ombudsman because unless you give them permission to share your concerns, whatever you say is confidential.


7 common problems that ombudsmen help with

When a senior isn’t getting proper care, there are usually signs that alert you to problems. If you’ve noticed any of these signs, you’re concerned about your senior’s quality of care, or the facility won’t address your concerns or fix problems, call your local ombudsman ASAP.

Here are 7 common issues that ombudsmen help with and signs that they might be happening to your older adult.

1. Physical, verbal, or mental abuse

  • Signs: unexplained bruises and injuries, fear of staff, increased agitation or depression

2. Being deprived of services needed to maintain residents’ physical and mental health

3. Unreasonable confinement

  • Signs: never able to leave the room, being ignored

4. Poor quality of care

  • Signs: falls or injuries, infrequent diaper changes, lack of bathing, call buttons don’t get answered

5. Improper transfer or discharge of patient

6. Inappropriate use of chemical or physical restraints

  • Example: overuse of sedatives or anti-psychotic drugs

7. Any resident concern about quality of care or quality of life



3 ways to find your local ombudsman

1. The office address and phone number for your local ombudsman should be posted prominently in every long term care facility.

2. Use this online ombudsman locator.

3. Use the “Search by Location” tool on this page to find your local Area Agency on Aging. They’ll be able to refer you to your local ombudsman’s office.


Bottom line

Residents of long term care facilities and their families have a right to good care. Nobody should suffer from abuse, neglect, discrimination, or retaliation.

If something seems wrong, it probably is – don’t hesitate to speak up. An ombudsman will support you in protecting your senior’s rights and getting them the care they deserve.


Next Step  Find your local ombudsman’s office


You might also like:
How to Deal with Problems in Assisted Living: Answers to 7 Top Questions
5 Things You Need to Know About Assisted Living
Senior Housing Experts Help Seniors Find the Perfect Place to Live


By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Source: The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center
Image: Harmony Information Systems


  • Reply June 12, 2020

    Marilyn Eccles

    My first exposure to an ombudsman was while my mom was in St. Cabrini nursing home in MY. What a caring and remarkable soul that man was. Now I am in Florida and my friends cousin is being transferred from a local hospital to a nursing home. She has lesions all over her body that they have not diagnosed. She has had multiple small strokes and family was told they would continue unless her A-fib was treated with ablation surgery which the hospital is not agreeing to do. Sue is failing rapidly and her family wants to be near her. Can the ombudsman organization assist under these circumstances?

  • Reply July 8, 2019


    The fact that LRC facilities are understaffed, for whatever reason, serves as an umbrella escape valve for many reservations that concerned friends and relatives of loved ones have and are left helpless in the face of poor or inconsistent personal care of residents. There are too many issues on which to elaborate, but a few are noted here. There is a tight control over what, if any, that staff can commun-icate without the expressed fear of summary dismissal. When an experienced family member, with a legal background in health matters & prior involvement in job analysis, inquests and MOH on-the-job experience is targeted for fear of
    exposure, much is swept under the carpet. When a threat is sensed or manufactured, the staff are advised by compromised administrative staff to arrange for provocative measures by which to discredit that person, his or her insights are gained by patterns of such behaviour posed by staff in conjunction with residents. Some Nurses and PSWs, in light of being understaffed, also have a propensity to act in harmful measures, eg. by teaming up certain patients pragmatically. without consideration of the consequences. Given the fact that the type of work does not attract the most qualified persons, some are just outstandingly misfitted for the work. Yet, when an MOH rep. attends, the word leaks out to be on one’s best behaviour. Even family members are fearful of expressing their concerns for fear of reprisal against their loved ones. Forbearance over the years merits a bitter sense of distaste in observing the slippage of a loved one’s state of fading consciousness. When-ever physical abuse occurs to a loved one who can not express details, one is left to the obvious fallacy-ious output of a consolidated “team” of staff, the administrative personnel being the greatest manipulators of the truth. There just has to be a better way of assisting the helpless ones and not just by placing “plants” such as tutored residents or their over-compensating visitors in the midst of misery. The poor quality of choice of staff and the lack of sufficiency in both numbers and the lack of psychological training renders a very negative picture. A starting point would be to promote communication by relatives and staff in a most secretive manner by which reprisals are not subject to a pragmatically automatic policy. I am still contemplating writing a book on the subject, based on prior experience as well as insightful daily observations over almost 10 years. Bureaucracy by government or the ranks of LRC employees is not the answer obviously but the tact of utilizing journalistic dissemination may just be the avenue of registering conscientious input in the search for leadership as opposed to managerial abuse in the system.

  • Reply June 19, 2018


    I have worked in a assisted living facility going on my 25th year. This facility changed over to personal care ! We have less help than we did when it was just assisted living. They bring in skilled care patients now and tell us the state says we do not need more help. How is it possible to do the care for a resident who is total care and takes longer than the patients we had before and not need more help ! The time they figure for each resident is not enough to do their care right !! I am seeing so much neglect because of these crazy state laws . When is the state of pa going to do something about this ? We have people sitting and waiting to be changed and cleaned up for hours at a time. Bed clothing not being changed. Showers not done. How would you like your family waiting like that . Let me know what we can do to change this and make it better .

    • Reply June 19, 2018


      I’m so sorry, that’s such a terrible situation! It definitely makes your job much harder and decreases the quality of life for your residents 🙁 State and federal governments need to do more to make sure things like this don’t happen. Unfortunately, it seems like true reform won’t be happening soon. In the meantime, maybe the ombudsman’s office could help?

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