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Proposed Changes for Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs

Nursing home residents are some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Because of a range of mental, medical, and physical issues, each is reliant on caregivers for many of their most basic needs. It is little wonder then that nursing home residents have difficulty advocating for their interests in the public sphere. While the nursing home industry itself has strong lobbying groups and organized efforts to press for their interests at local, state, and federal levels, the residents who rely on quality care being provided by that industry usually does not.

That is where Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) Program fill in the gaps. These programs have been around for about forty years, The idea is that these programs–run in each individual state, including Illinois–would represent the interests of individual residents. The LTCO would help press for accountability in issues between the resident and facility as well as advocate for the public policy interests of the residents. Over the last few decades thousands of volunteers have worked within the program to ensure proper care for residents, including demanding accountability in cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Elder Advocacy for the Future
The need for strong LTCO programs is growing as demographics change and the nation ages. Advocates agree that as more seniors move into nursing facilities, the instances of mistreatment, neglect, and intentional abuse will similarly rise. As a result, LTCO programs might need to be reinforced so that they can serve in an expanded role and protect the rights of residents.

To ensure these programs are able to meet the needs of seniors in the future, many different involved parties requested more concrete rules from federal administrative offices. The hope is that specific guidelines and structure to the programs will ensure that the current scattered quality of LTCO programs nationwide will become more uniform and effective.

Toward that end, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to discuss possible topics to strengthen the LTCO program. The press release discussing the situation can be found here.

A variety of issues are being considered in the proposed rules. They include clarification of each representative’s’ responsibilities, a uniform way to resolve complaints from residents, examination of possible conflicts of interest, and more. A more detailed examination of the changes can be found here.

The office encourages public comment on the proposed changes. Public comments will be open for 60 days after the publishing of the rule. It is at this time where all concerned advocates can voice their concerns or offer support.

Our attorneys work on elder neglect and mistreatment cases. We are fully aware that lives literally hang in the balance when it comes to demanding quality care at Illinois nursing homes. We understand that it is critical for LTCO programs to be pervasive, ensuring resident needs are respected for decades to come. If someone you know may not be receiving quality care at a long-term care facility, feel free to get in touch without our office to see how we can help.

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