From Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District Area Agency on Aging
The Southern Mississippi Planning and Development District (SMPDD) Area Agency on Aging employs three representatives of the Office of the State Ombudsman. Each serves the long-term care residents in their designated area of the 15 southernmost county SMPPD region.
In Mississippi, the long-term care ombudsman is a state employee, but the office’s local representatives are employed by other contracted entities, typically an Area Agency on Aging. In this structure, the long-term care ombudsman has programmatic oversight while the Area Agency on Aging has personnel oversight.
SO, WHAT IS AN OMBUDSMAN?
An ombudsman serves as an agent, representative or spokesperson on behalf of another. Long-term care ombudsmen act at the direction and for benefit of long-term care facility residents. The idea of the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program was developed during the Nixon administration, and in 1972, it was implemented in five states in response to complaints of nursing home abuse.
By the late 1970s, all states were mandated to have an Ombudsman Program as a requirement of the Older Americans Act. Later, other adult care facilities, such as boarding homes and assisted-living facilities, were added to the program’s scope of responsibility. In 1992, the Vulnerable Elder Rights Protection Program was created to amend the Older Americans Act. It included a collaborative effort of the Ombudsman Program with other advocacy programs to address older people’s understanding and exercise of their rights, as well as access to assistance with problems they encounter.
ADDRESSING CONCERNS, ANSWERING QUESTIONS
Local ombudsmen serve as resident advocates and support the resident’s highest possible quality of life and care. In doing so, ombudsmen receive, investigate and resolve complaints that affect residents of long-term care facilities. These complaints most often involve substandard quality of life and care, violations of resident rights, financial exploitation, abuse and neglect.
Anyone can file a complaint with the ombudsman. Ombudsmen receive complaints from residents, family and friends of residents, facility staff and any other person concerned about the welfare of a resident of a long-term care facility. All communication is confidential and can be anonymous. Anyone who is in a position to threaten or interfere with a resident’s rights, health, safety or welfare can be investigated, including other residents, facilities, facility employees, service providers, relatives, public or private agencies and guardians or conservators. Complaints regarding long-term care can be filed by phone, in person or in writing to the state or local ombudsman.
In addition to addressing complaints, local ombudsmen answer questions and provide information about long-term care through individual consultation; promote resident, family, and community involvement in long-term care through resident and family counsels; educate community members and promote awareness of the needs of long-term care residents through outreach opportunities like health fairs and nutritional center events; coordinate efforts with other agencies and organizations concerned with long-term care, such as Adult Protective Services and Medicaid; and identify issues and problem areas in long-term care and recommend needed changes.
Learn more and connect with SMPDD at smpdd.com/. Contact the Gulfport Area Agency on Aging office at (228) 868-2311.