If you have a loved one in a long-term care nursing home, you know how difficult it can be to visit more than once or twice per week. You are the eyes and ears of your elderly family member, but who is looking out for them when you are not around? The Long-Term Ombudsmen of Riverside County do just that.
What Is a Long-Term Care Ombudsman?
In 1978, amendments to the Older Americans Act mandated that each state create an Ombudsman Program. The Older Californians Act further solidified the funding and presence of the program by supporting the development of the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (OSLTCO).
A Long-Term Care Ombudsman is someone who is specially trained to:
- Handle the complaints of individuals. These complaints can come directly from the individual or from a loved one.
- Advocate for stronger policies, laws, and improved system infrastructure. This is usually done through public education and is guided by the OSLTCO.
Services Provided by a Riverside County Ombudsman
The Ombudsmen of Riverside County are legally empowered to visit and inspect a nursing home unannounced. While they are not able to issue citations, they report to the OSLTCO and this office works with the appropriate authorities to open cases. The California Department of Aging details that Ombudsmen also handle:
- Questions or concerns regarding the quality of care.
- Inquiries or concerns about financial abuse.
- Other suspected forms of abuse (physical, mental, or emotional).
- The witnessing of Advance Health Care Directives.
- Resident care plan meetings.
- Resident or family council meetings.
The Riverside County Ombudsman Shortage
This Ombudsman Program is a wonderful tool for the residents of nursing homes, but this form of support is underfunded and understaffed. As of November of 2018, Riverside County only had 12 volunteers and 9 paid staff members to service 520 facilities that span 7,000 square miles.
With over 15,000 residents in long-term care, there are almost 790 residents for every Riverside County Ombudsman. However, the Ombudsmen were able to complete 1,587 unannounced facility visits and open 372 cases in 2017–2018. The number of residents is estimated to increase by 250% between 2010 and 2060.
The office states that they need 40 to 50 Ombudsmen compared to their current force of 21.
How to Contact an Ombudsman
If you have questions or concerns and want to contact a Riverside County Ombudsman:
- Call the Community Connect Riverside office at (951) 686-4402.
- Call the State Crisis line at (800) 231-4024.
- Call to volunteer for the Ombudsmen program at (833) 772-6624.
It may also be a good idea to contact local authorities and an experienced attorney.
While the Office of Ombudsmen is a wonderful tool in the fight against elderly abuse, it can only do so much. If you or a loved one is the victim of elderly abuse you need the help of a skilled and licensed attorney. Christopher C. Walton is an award-winning elder abuse attorney that services the San Diego and Temecula Valley Regions. Contact Chris at (866) 338-7079.