Ombudsman Program

> Long Term Care Ombudsman Program

This program’s goal is to promote advocacy and outreach to all patients/residents residing in nursing and rest homes. Ombudsmen help residents resolve complaints about personal care, residents’ rights or any type of issue or concern affecting their life as a patient/resident in a long term care facility. Program staff and Ombudsmen volunteers follow written procedures for complaint resolution and adhere to confidentiality. They also serve as a referral source for people in the community with questions about eligibility or placement in long term care facilities.

Federal Older American Act of 1965 mandated Massachusetts to provide the program for the residents in Nursing and Rest Homes. Long Term Care Ombudsman Program became part of the AoA in 1973. The Massachusetts Program was one of the first Ombudsman Pilot Projects in the Nation. The 1987 Amendments to the OAA improved the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program ability to advocate on behalf of residents in Long Term Care facilities.

Patient Abuse and Neglect Law established mandatory reporting procedures for persons paid for caring for residents in long term care facilities. Such individuals can be subject to a citation and/or fine if they have “reasonable cause to believe” abuse, mistreatment, or misappropriation has occurred and fail to report it to the Department of Public Health (DPH).

Click here for list of Nursing and Rest homes covered by the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

For more information about the program, nursing home and rest home placement, eligibility, regulations, or resident’s rights, call our Information & Referral Department at 1-800-892-0890.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of the Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman is an advocate for patients/residents in nursing and rest homes, and is available to both short-term rehab patients as well as long-term care residents. The Ombudsman Program’s mandate is to represent the resident and assist at his or her direction.

How does an Ombudsman act on behalf of a patient/resident?
The Ombudsman educates residents, family members, and facility staff about residents’ rights, and good care practices. Any action by the Ombudsman to intervene on a resident’s behalf is contingent on permission from the resident and at the resident’s direction.  If the resident wants the Ombudsman to act on the problem, the Ombudsman will investigate the complaint and continue to communicate with the resident throughout the investigation process.  The Ombudsman serves as a link between residents, families, facility staff, and others to help resolve complaints and concerns.

How can a family member/friend utilize the Ombudsman Program?
If someone other than the resident contacts the Ombudsman Program, the Ombudsman will visit the resident to see if the resident has similar concerns and wants to pursue the complaint.   If the resident cannot provide consent, the Ombudsman will work with the resident’s representative or follow program policies and procedures if the resident does not have a representative.

How can a family member best determine that a resident is being well cared for in a facility?
Participating in care plan conferences is a way to be heard, raise questions, and come to a clear agreement with the facility about how the resident is cared for. Participants discuss the resident’s care regarding medical and non-medical issues, including meals, activities, therapies, personal schedule, medical and nursing care, and emotional needs are agreed upon and addressed. Care plans must be reviewed regularly to make sure they work and revised as needed.

When can an Ombudsman visit a facility?
Between 10 am – 8 pm any day of the week, however The Director and Program Assistants can visit at any time during the 24 hours of the day.

How can we get in touch with the volunteer ombudsman outside of their visits?
Contact Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore and ask to speak to the Director of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program or call the Ombudsman Line below.  Our volunteers do not have extensions at the agency.
E-Fax: 978-651-3524

Can the Volunteer Ombudsman or Ombudsman Program Assistant attend resident/family meetings?
Yes, if they are available, but these meetings need to be scheduled through the Director of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program and require a minimum of 48 hours’ notice, unless in urgent or time sensitive situations.

How much does it cost for Ombudsman Services?
Unlike, private advocacy services which charge up to $300/hour, there is no cost for utilizing the LTCOP services at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley and North Shore.

How can I review the previous survey’s and ratings for a particular facility before I or my loved one goes there?
Below are sites for reviewing the surveys and ratings, however we recommend that you use this information only as part of your decision on placement and not the sole factor. Survey information is only a “Snap-Shot” of time and does not consider the “Whole Picture”.

What training does an Ombudsman receive?

  • Mandatory in-person/on-line classroom training with the State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program Office, followed by minimum 10 hours of training with the Local Director.
  • Monthly meetings with program staff and fellow Ombudsman volunteers on issues relevant to Ombudsman work
  • Periodic support visits with program staff
  • Ongoing support and guidance from program staff
  • 24 hours of continuing education each year
  • Recertification training every two years

How does one become an Ombudsman volunteer?
The process begins with submitting an application online for review. You can access the application through our website at

To learn more about the rights of nursing home residents, check out The National Consumer Voice website at