Like other states across the nation, Mississippi has its own laws regarding long-term care ombudsman programs in addition to the requirements of federal law. An ombudsman is a representative and advocate for residents in facilities providing various levels of care for seniors and the elderly.
All the following types of facilities require licensure and regulation from the State Department of Health and are included in the ombudsman program:
- Extended care homes
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Intermediate care facilities
- Boarding homes
- Personal care homes
Anyone who is a resident or who sponsors a resident may contact the ombudsman or make use of the services of the representative.
What services does an ombudsman provide?
People can let ombudsmen know about issues by filing a complaint about a problem or potential problem in a facility. A resident suffering from neglect may contact an ombudsman and inform him or her of the matter. After a thorough investigation, the representative will take action to correct the injustice. Family members or friends of the resident, or even staff at the facility, may also make a report.
Ombudsmen do not wait for complaints before seeking to improve living conditions for residents. One of the primary functions of the program is to raise awareness of issues before state, local, municipal and federal government agencies. For example, an ombudsman may speak to state lawmakers about the need for revisions to the current law, or the need to draft a new law, regarding the welfare of residents of long-term care facilities.
Community involvement is another key to awareness. Ombudsmen provide public forums such as conferences, workshops and public hearings to gather information about the needs of residents and direct attention to the issues.
Data and statistics are vital in highlighting systemic problems in facilities. When possible, ombudsmen present these to state and local agencies for correction; they must also make reports to the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Aging.
Anyone who suspects elder abuse or neglect should not hesitate to report the issue to the appropriate ombudsman for investigation. However, witnesses of abuse or dangerous conditions should immediately contact local authorities to prevent further harm to residents.