Monday, November 22, 2010

Meet Your Parent's 'Guardian Angel,' the Long-Term Care Ombudsman

If your parent lives in a care setting--assisted living, adult family home or nursing home, chances are you worry. You can't be with him or her 24-7. You wonder, "Are his or her care needs being met?" and, "How can I be sure he or she isn't being exploited?"

You and your parent need a guardian angel, someone who can right the wrongs and fight for those who can't speak for themselves. Fortunately, there is such a person, called a long-term ombudsman. Assigned to your parent's health care center or assisted living community, he or she will visit, help solve problems and work to make changes at the local, state and national levels.

The National Long-term Ombudsmen Program is active in all 50 states and operates under the authority of the Older Americans Act. Each state has an office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, which oversees the work of the local paid and unpaid staff.

I spoke to a local ombudsman not long ago. A retired nurse, Bonnie, like other ombudsmen, has a heart for older people, especially those in care settings. Much of her job involves visiting with residents in her assigned nursing home. When problems arise, they feel comfortable to go to her.

If you don't know your long-term ombudsman, introduce yourself. He or she is especially trained to investigate complaints of family members, too, with a goal of helping improve the atmosphere for all.

Do you know your long-term care ombudsman?

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