The Ombudsman Program is a nationwide resource that was founded in 1971. It was born out of a need to correct the abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Since its inception, more than 450 similar programs have been created throughout the United States. The first Ombudsman Program began in Missouri in 1978. Since that time, nine other Ombudsman organizations have been developed in the state in various regions.
The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) was established to serve the St. Louis, Missouri area in 1979. It is the area’s most comprehensive resource that serves residents of nursing homes and their families. LTCOP is a nonprofit, independent, public service agency that supports and informs one out of every two Americans who may spend some time in a nursing home. It is the leading provider of advocacy services and information on nursing homes, regulations, and residents’ rights patients in nursing homes as well as the surrounding community. The volunteers spend about four hours weekly in assigned facilities. They get to know the residents, inform, and advocate for their rights in long term facilities.
The program is organized around four major areas. The volunteers provide advocacy for nursing home residents as well as information for nursing home residents and families. In addition to this, the team provides education for families, nursing home personnel, and long-term professionals. LTCOP also advocates for current and future nursing home residents specifically through legislative and administrative action.
It has been stated that the use of ombudsman volunteers is positively related with routine visitations and number of complaints made and resolved. These people are so important and provide a level of authenticity and grassroots participation that is lacking in many other systems that are designed to protect and support the elderly. The LTCOP team undergoes excessive training and is able to utilize a plethora of tools with regards to service and conflict resolution. They can serve as mediators, they can represent a resident at care plan meetings, and they can sit with the administration of the facility and speak on behalf or be there to support the resident while they speak to the administration.
Some services performed by Ombudsman include communicating regularly with residents, promoting communication among those involved with residents’ care and educating residents on their rights and other services available. Ombudsman are responsible for visiting an assigned nursing home one-half day per week during regular business hours, following up on any complaint and reporting back to the resident on the status of the concern, completing written reports after each visit, and attending quarterly in-service training sessions.
Older Americans need so little, but it is said that they need that little so much. LTCOP has been and will continue to meet the needs of those who fought to make our country what it is today.