What in the World is an Ombudsman?

Have you ever seen a word and thought, “What is that, where did it come from, and what in the world does it mean?” For many, the word “ombudsman” elicits that response.

It’s only early summer, but Ombudsmen (and Ombudswomen!) across the state have already made hundreds of visits to local long term care facilities and provided countless hours of consultation and education to long term care residents and their families. The term “ombudsman” is a Swedish word meaning ‘carrier of the message’ and long term care ombudsmen provide a voice for residents of those facilities. Although ombudsmen provide routine visits to long term care facilities, some residents and their families don’t realize that ombudsmen are impartial advocates for the residents and they live by the motto: ‘What Does the Resident Want.’

As the number of long term care facilities grow, the role of the Long Term Care Ombudsman remains important as ever. Colorado’s long term care ombudsmen protect the rights of people living in nursing homes and assisted living residences. They act as advocates for the resident and assist the resident in resolving issues related to care, health, safety, and the resident’s rights. Ombudsmen strive to resolve complaints that range from simple quality of care issues, such as a resident’s preferred time for breakfast, to very serious, sometimes life-threatening, concerns involving abuse and neglect.

In Colorado, the LTC ombudsman program sits within Disability Law Colorado and ombudsman activities are contracted through the local Area Agencies on Aging. The ombudsman program’s federally-mandated advocacy service is free for nursing home and assisted living facility residents in the region.


Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Erin Fisher. Erin is the Director of the Alpine Area Agency on Aging (Region 12) and may be reached at 970-468-0295 or by email at aaa12@nwccog.org