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What Is An Ombudsman?

At Brown & Barron, our mission is to restore justice for members of our community, regardless of whether they are clients. One of the ways we accomplish this is by helping to educate our neighbors on their rights, as well as all the resources that are there to support them. One such resource is the Maryland Ombudsman Program, a valuable advocate for issues pertaining to long-term care (LTC) facilities, including nursing homes, board/care homes, and assisted living facilities (ALFS).

What’s an Ombudsman?

An ombudsman (pronounced: ahm-BUDDZ-min) is an advocate – think of them as a very helpful friend – for the residents of nursing homes. The ombudsman is a civil servant, often a volunteer, who is trained to resolve problems related to the health, safety, welfare, and rights of individuals who live in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes. The services provided by an ombudsman are free and confidential. The LTC Ombudsman Program was enacted with the Older Americans Act of 1965 and is administered at the state level by the Maryland Administration on Aging.

What Services does the Ombudsman Provide?

An ombudsman can help investigate and resolve issues large and small, and they do so with the help of the resident or on their behalf. They can keep the resident’s name confidential if they so choose. A law firm that specializes in nursing home abuse or neglect, like Brown & Barron, can help you with situations that result in serious injuries or even death, but an ombudsman can help you with various important issues that affect the quality of life at a nursing home, including:

  • Poor staff attitudes
  • Neglect or mistreatment
  • Lack of staff responsiveness
  • Physical, verbal, and sexual abuse 
  • Failure to meet nutritional needs or poor food quality/variety
  • Failure to meet personal hygiene needs
  • Lack of medical care for disabilities and illnesses
  • Medication errors

Specifically, nursing home ombudsman services include the following:

  • Addressing systemic issues that affect caregiving
  • Advocating for resident’s rights and quality of care and 

providing them with related education

  • Helping residents file complaints with other agencies if needed
  • Promoting the creation of resident/family and citizen groups
  • Promoting community involvement by offering volunteer jobs 
  • Sharing information with the public about nursing homes
  • Reporting nursing home abuse and neglect
  • Resolving resident quality-of-life complaints
  • Collecting data regarding elder abuse rates
  • Investigating claims of elder abuse and listening to victims of abuse
  • Holding caregivers accountable for elder abuse or neglect
  • Acting as a contact point for residents and their loved ones to address their needs and concerns

Who Can Contact a Maryland Ombudsman?

Residents of a nursing home or members of their support system (friends, family members, facility staff, and others) can contact the Maryland Ombudsman Program to communicate concerns related to long-term care facilities and ensure residents receive the quality of care they deserve. You do not need a legal connection (e.g., power of attorney) to the resident to get help from an ombudsman.

Ways Ombudsmen Help Improve Nursing Home Care

In addition to addressing complaints, ombudsmen work to protect residents of nursing homes and their rights by working with the government, law enforcement, and other agencies during investigations and bring elder abusers to justice:

Working With Governments

After each visit, ombudsmen enter the relevant information into the National Ombudsman Reporting System. They may also report these findings to local, state, and federal government offices. By gathering nursing home resident abuse and neglect data, complaints can be assessed and arranged by severity and frequency. They can also emphasize needed improvements in specific aspects of care.

Holding Nursing Home Staff Accountable

Ombudsmen can also ensure nursing home caregivers and facilities are held responsible when misconduct occurs. An ombudsman can determine if residents genuinely receive high-quality care by visiting assisted living homes and identifying signs of abuse and neglect. If such problems exist, ombudsmen can work with victims to address them. This may include notifying law enforcement of severe cases of abuse or neglect and ensuring the victim is given the necessary medical care.

Advocating for the Rights of Residents

An ombudsman can ensure nursing home and assisted care facility residents know their rights and understand how to exercise them. These rights were outlined as part of the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act and included the following:

  • The right to freedom from abuse, mistreatment, and neglect;
  • The right to freedom from physical restraints;
  • The right to privacy;
  • The right to accommodation of medical, physical, psychological, and social needs;
  • The right to participate in resident and family groups;
  • The right to be treated with dignity;
  • The right to exercise self-determination;
  • The right to communicate freely;
  • The right to participate in the review of one’s care plan and be fully informed in advance about any changes in care, treatment, or change of status in the facility; and
  • The right to voice grievances without discrimination or reprisal.

How Is an Ombudsman Different from an Attorney?

The function of a nursing home ombudsman is quite different from that of an attorney, who is associated with the legal system and its formal processes. While an ombudsman is expected to be objective and neutral when working with residents, a lawyer must advocate for their client and use confrontational approaches to resolve issues. Although some ombudsmen have legal training and experience, they do not offer legal advice.

How do I Contact an Ombudsman?

Contact your local ombudsman at the phone number below for the county in which the resident currently resides.

County: Phone Number

  • Allegany County: 301-777-5970
  • Anne Arundel County: 410-222-4464
  • Baltimore City 410-396-3144
  • Baltimore County: 410-887-4200
  • Calvert County: 410-535-4606, ext. 122
  • Caroline County: 410-778-6000
  • Carroll County: 410-386-3800
  • Cecil County: 410-996-8429
  • Charles County: 301-932-6004
  • Dorchester County: 410-742-0505, ext. 104
  • Frederick County: 301-600-2877
  • Garrett County: 301-334-9431
  • Harford County: 410-638-3025
  • Howard County: 410-313-6423
  • Kent County: 410-778-6000
  • Montgomery County: 240-777-3369
  • Prince George’s County: 301-265-8483
  • Queen Anne’s County: 410-758-0848
  • Somerset County: 410-742-0505, ext. 104
  • St. Mary’s County: 301-475-4200
  • Talbot County: 410-778-6000
  • Washington County: 301-790-0275

Call Us Today for a Free Consultation About Nursing Home Abuse

If you or a loved one suffered nursing home abuse, you can seek an ombudsman’s help. They can guide you through your next steps. You can also explore your legal options with an attorney from Brown & Barron today. During a free consultation, we can review how you could take action against the facility where the harm occurred and how you might be able to recover financial compensation for your injuries and losses. Give us a call today.

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