Understanding the Ombudsman – Preventing Nursing Home Neglect

Those willing to abuse and neglect others usually prey on the most vulnerable. Nursing home residents often have physical, mental, and emotional weaknesses that make them easy targets for mistreatment. That is why all seniors in long-term care facilities need advocates on their side.

In Illinois, as in many states, one of the most important advocates for nursing homes residents is known as an “Ombudsman.” It is a funny title that comes with very serious duties. An ombudsman is usually an official government representative who is charged with ensuring that seniors at care facilities have their rights respected.

A helpful My Web Times story for last week shines a spotlight on one ombudsman, offering a helpful analysis of what these advocates do and how Illinois residents can take advantage of their support services.

Nursing Home Ombudsmen in Illinois
One LaSalle County ombudsman interviewed in the story explained how her primary role is to act as a voice for the residents at all times. On many occasions, she listens to residents with various complaints, and then tries to work with the facility to address the issue. As such, she works hard to develop strong relationships with both residents as well as caregivers. The purpose of the ombudsman is not always to act as an aggressive advocate but often as a trusted counselor who can find equitable solutions that work for both the resident and the facility.

However, even though the ombudsman may develop strong relationships with facility caregivers, at the end of the day, the ombudsman is focused on the resident’s needs above all else. The specific concerns faced by ombudsmen are numerous, including issues with food service, room assignments, personality disagreements, potential financial exploitation, and more.

Some situations of this nature can be resolved simply by sharing information with staff members and creating a plan with them to address the concern. It is only in rare instances when more aggressive action may be needed, from regulatory sanctions up to actual lawsuits against the facility.

Summarizing her work, the LaSalle ombudsman explained, “”I think for the point in life that they [nursing home residents] are, and the situation that they find themselves, they are almost without exception delightful, appreciative and positive. Plus, it’s a relief to them – even if they don’t need me – to know I exist, that there’s somebody there just trying to be a voice for them. I think there’s a comfort in that.”

Seek Support
For those interested in learning more about these critical Illinois advocates, feel free to browse the Illinois Department of Aging’s Ombudsman Program website. If you would like to find contact information about ombudsmen serving your particular county, be sure to browse this helpful summary chart and accompanying information provided by the Department of Aging.

Also, as always, our team of Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers is always here to provide legal counsel and advocacy if you suspect that the rights of a loved one were violated by a long-term care facilities anywhere in the state. Feel free to contact us at any time to see how we might be able to help.

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