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


Affiliate ad


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 January 10, 2022


    My mon is in Arbor Glen, Cedar Grove, NJ – over which my younger sister seems to have some kind of POA. Its yet to be verified. Anyway, my mom is not being taken care of properly. She has an very large open and deep pressure sore in her lower back. Her health has drastically decline and she ended in the hospital and that was when I saw the sores and was told by the doctor she was very badly dehydrated. I called both the health department and the Ombudsman to complaint. The rude lady from the health department told me my case was not a propriety and the man who went to the nursing home from the ombudsman agency said her wound dressing looked changed and clean. I asked him what was purpose of going? did you look at the wound. And the lady I just without profanity cursed her out. I don’t know who is worse, the health department, the ombudsmen, the facility or my sister for not pulling my poor mom out of there. Trust me, my complaint will not stop here.

    • Reply January 10, 2022


      We’re so sorry to hear about this. It’s great that you’re doing your best to help your mom and we hope that the authorities will be able to step in and make sure that she gets proper care.

  • Reply May 18, 2021


    Ombudsman did nothing after witnessing bruises and fractured leg .What next?

  • Reply October 25, 2020

    Jamie Jones

    Again my son is being victimized and has no course for action he is states away and this is an emergency situation I have reached out to law enforcement, director of center he is/was located, patient advocate for his insurance group, social worker that is employed / on site at center and DFCS in his residing state and have gotten no return calls, emails or texts this is WAY BEYOND “DROPPING THE BALL” OR ” SLIPPING THROUGH THE CRACKS” and believe me When I say if and when I finally reach the right set of eyes and ears titles and/ positions will not be considered as escape goat where ” one head can roll, several can as easily” if something happens to my son while trying to get this addressed/resolved I can assure you talk WILL ” HEAR MY ROAR, FEEL MY CLAWS AND FEAR MY BITE” I SWEAR TO YOU THAT.

  • Reply October 19, 2020

    melissa hudgens

    my mother is in a nursing home dieing and we cant even get in to visit with her i have seen such a declime in her health. i dont understand why we punish our elder like this they wont let you in butthey will hire people who have it and let them in im not understanding this at all i just trying to spend time with my mom so i muset ouside in the weather to do so. which will make me sick one big vicouscyclei dont get any of this i just want to see my mom

    • Reply November 10, 2020


      I’m so sorry that you haven’t been able to see your mother. This pandemic has been especially hard on older adults living in care communities and their families.

      Unfortunately, aside from continuously checking with the administration on any changes to their visiting policies, the best thing to do might be to adapt to the situation.

      For example, find ways to stay warm while you’re outside, like getting bundled up in thermal underwear and warm layers. Send cards and photos and letters that she can read and look at when you’re not there. And you could consider setting up a communication system that will work for your mother and for you and your family.

      We’ve got an article with suggestions on how to make video calls with seniors who aren’t comfortable with technology or have cognitive impairments – Best Way to Make Video Calls to Seniors with Alzheimer’s or Dementia in Nursing Homes

      We’ve also got an article with suggestions on how to keep in touch – Nursing Home Lockdown: 6 Ways to Stay Connected with Seniors During a Coronavirus Scare

  • Reply September 23, 2020


    My wife and I have been trying to see my 95 yr old mother-in-law in the nursing home in Nj. She has not had an inside visit since March Maybe 3 or 4 20 min visits outside for 15-20 mins tops. during the covid . I know the facility is playing hardball and mom has faded so much without her much needed intimacy from her children. This kind of treatment is not at all fair to the family. My wife and sister -law were her essential caregivers before her placement and i know Gov. Murphy has a Executive Directive addressing this directive #20-026. It states that the 2 of them can visit her inside for 1 day a week for 2 hours. If there is no active covid for 15 days. facility outright says no. Ready to lose it!! Any advice would so greatly help!

  • Reply August 24, 2020

    Steve Rhine

    I’m Writing this to Complain about [redacted for privacy]. My Brother is Handicapped on Top of being Quadriplegic! He’s Fell Out of Bed Three Times and Smacked in his Face Couple Times been Called Retarded. What Kind of Life is this for Anybody to Live? We did some Window Visits untill the Staff got an Attitude and Decided to move my Brother [redacted for privacy] to another Room where [he] can’t be Near the window! (Are we in F****** Kindergarten) It’s Coming to a Point where I can’t get any Help for my Brother [redacted for privacy]. I’m Going to Take Matters into my own Hands and Nothing will End well! Plz Help I’m Crying for Help!!!!!!!!!!

    • Reply August 25, 2020


      We’re so sorry to hear about this situation. You have every right to be angry about the way your brother has been treated. Hopefully the ombudsman’s office in your county can help you work with the care community to address these problems.

      You may also want to contact your county’s Area Agency on Aging to see if there are other organizations that can help. More info here – Area Agency on Aging: Resources for Seniors

      You could also speak with an elder law attorney to see if there’s anything that can be done on a legal front. Here are some suggestions for affordable legal help – 7 Sources of Free Legal Services for Seniors

  • 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 May 8, 2021

      Sandra L Weyerman

      Excellent and honest assessment!

  • 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?

    • Reply December 6, 2021


      This is also a MAJOR issue at the LTC facility where I work in Texas. It breaks my heart to see that making more profit for the pockets of the owners owners of the company come before given quality care to the residents. The cost for staying in a LTC facility is OUTRAGOUS. There should be a law that limits that ratio of residents to care givers such as the laws for caring for children. It’s sickening that there is such exploration of the residents with little of no regards to their quality of care and well being.

      • Reply December 6, 2021


        We’re so sorry to hear this, it’s a terrible situation for both the residents and the staff to be in.

Leave a Reply