Carol V. O'Shaughnessy, MA
Assuring quality of care for residents in long-term care facilities has been a serious and continuing concern of policymakers for decades. The Older Americans Act’s long-term care ombudsman program is a consumer advocacy model intended to improve quality of care by helping the 2.5 million residents of almost 67,000 nursing and other residential care facilities resolve complaints about their care and protect their rights. Despite broad recognition of its value in assisting residents and its efforts to complement federal and state oversight of long-term care facilities, some observers are concerned about the program’s ability to meet its legislative mandates. Limited funding affects the ability of many states to meet minimum staffing goals recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Also, in most states, ombudsmen do not conduct regular quarterly visits to long-term care facilities. This background paper discusses the role of long-term care ombudsmen and highlights selected issues regarding the capacity of the program to promote quality care and advance the rights of residents.
For more on services provided to the elderly population under the Older Americans Act, see "The Aging Services Network: Serving a Vulnerable and Growing Elderly Population in Tough Economic Times" (Background Paper No. 83, December 13, 2011).