Q: A friend has a sister who resides in a nursing home in another state. She called me the other night and was so upset about the problems she has been having with the facility. Her sister’s clothes consistently do not come back from the laundry, the room is not always clean and on two occasions an infection was overlooked resulting in hospitalization. Other families are having similar issues at the home but they are reluctant to make too many complaints for fear their relatives will suffer the repercussions. I know this is not in your service area but can you give me any advice to pass on to her?
A: It is unfortunate that the old adage about “one rotten apple spoils the barrel” holds true in some people’s mind. A facility which provides poor care gives the long term care industry an undeserved negative reputation. Most facilities keep in mind the best interests of their residents in all aspects of their daily operation.
The definition of the Swedish word “ombudsman” is ” a public official appointed to investigate citizens complaints against local or national government agencies that may be infringing on the rights of individuals”. The Older Americans Act has applied this concept to the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program which covers facilities in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam. Ombudsman staff and trained volunteers are staunch advocates who respond to complaints, ensure personal rights are respected and make every attempt to resolve problems for those individuals who reside in long term care facilities.
It is unfortunate whenever a family member acting on behalf of a loved one or the resident hesitates to voice their concerns out of fear of retribution. No one should suffer in silence. All concerns should be directed to the staff of the facility. If the situation does not improve a report should be made to the Ombudsman Program covering the facility. The information regarding the Ombudsman Program should be displayed in a visible area of the building. For some reason people are not always aware of the value in involving the local Ombudsman.
Encourage your friend to make a call to the Ombudsman Program and pass the information on to other families who have had concerns. Lists of phone numbers for the area where her sister resides can be found by calling the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or on-line at www.ltcombudsman.org. It is always helpful if a responsible family member documents all concerns and attempts made to communicate with the facility.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.