What is a Long Term Care Ombudsman?

A Long Term Care Ombudsman is, in the plainest definition, a representative to elderly folks in nursing homes or long term care facilities.

To understand a little more deeply what a Long Term Care Ombudsman does, it helps to delve a little deeper into the word.

What is an Ombudsman?

An Ombudsman is someone who acts as an intermediary between two parties. Typically, the ombudsman is charged with representing one party to the other, and maintaining the trust of both. A problem solver at heart, the ombudsman is a facilitator and negotiator.

The word Ombudsman comes from the Old Norse language, a language spoken in parts of what is now scandinavia before many of the current country borders existed. The old norse term was umbuðsmann, and literally meant representative.

The Ombudsman is a little different than what you might think of as a representative. People like congressmen and women, and members of the US house of representatives are voted into office. Ombudsmen are typically appointed by the government. Additionally, whereas a Senator or member of The House is charged with many different responsibilities, the Ombudsman is typically limited to the process of investigating and addressing citizen’s complaints.

So What’s a Long Term Care Ombudsman?

A Long Term Care Ombudsman is in service to the elderly and aging population of the United States. In fact, according to the United States Older Americans Act in 1965, every state in the United States is required to have an Ombudsman program that advocates for senior citizens.

A Long Term Care Ombudsman does a lot of different things. He or she is, first and foremost, a listener. To be a good Long Term Care Ombudsman, you must have patience and compassion for others. You must be able to hear a resident’s complaints, and be an active participant in the conversation to help them clearly define their complaint.

The Ombudsman must also be a creative problem solver. It’s his or her job to resolve complaints for residents, and that can be a trying process. The solution to a complaint does not always make itself apparent, so the ability to dig for a solution, or to come up with clever ways to satisfy a resident, is an essential skill.

What Makes a Good Long Term Care Ombudsman?

To be good at this kind of job, there are a number of skills that help. Being a good educator is one of them. Often times, there’s simply a lack of information on both sides of an argument. Proactively educating each side about patients rights, good care practices, and insights into individual patients needs, wants and emotions can help avoid issues.

Being able to maintain a cool head can keep situations from boiling over. There will be times when people aren’t interested in negotiating. When emotions start running hot, you can expect to be the brunt of them from time to time. Realizing that someone’s anger, while directed at you, probably isn’t meant for you is an important step in developing the kind of understanding necessary to succeed at a difficult but meaningful job


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