The ombudsman program was created by Congress in the Older Americans Act to provide advocacy services for nursing home and other long-term care residents who needed help getting good care.  Illinois runs its program with a state ombudsman and local programs administered by 13 “area agencies on aging.”  The ombudsman programs are listed here.  Because of limited resources, some ombudsmen programs serve few or no residents younger than 60 years old.  All of them serve residents of assisted living and supportive living facilities, as well as of nursing homes.


Anybody can file a complaint with the local ombudsman, or ask the ombudsman to help a resident. When ombudsmen gets a complaint from a resident or from anybody else, they are supposed to investigate the complaint by going to the nursing home (or other facility,) if possible interviewing the resident, and then proceeding as the resident wishes.  If the resident can say what [s]he wants, the ombudsman is supposed to be guided by those wishes, even if that means doing what family members or friends might disagree with.


If a resident who is being abused or neglected does not wish to pursue a complaint, the ombudsman should attempt – if necessary during multiple visits – to understand why, and to help the resident feel safe in trying to get better care.  If the resident is unable to say what [s]he wants, the ombudsman will assume that [s]he does not want to be abused or neglected, and will advocate for better care without getting permission from then resident to do so.


Ombudsman also work on issues that are not directly related to what the nursing home staff is doing.  They deal with issues of financial exploitation, for example, and can help make arrangements for residents to move home.  They also represent residents whom a nursing home is trying to discharge.


Ombudsmen are supposed to give people guidance in finding a suitable nursing home.  Because of limited funding, and because some programs are reluctant to share information about individual nursing homes -- even information that is not confidential -- we cannot tell you if you will find your local ombudsman program helpful if you are looking for a nursing home. 


Ombudsman services are free.


Click here to learn more about the ombudsman program.  Click here to find your local ombudsman program.