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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

How an ombudsman can advocate for loved ones in long-term care

Apr 03, 2024 09:07AM ● By Laird Landon, PhD
Dear Laird: My mom is in a lovely assisted living community. However, it’s difficult to work effectively with the staff. There are ongoing issues that need attention, like helping her meet other residents and ensuring her laundry is done properly. Additionally, some of her belongings have gone missing. When I bring this up, the response is either a promise to address them or an explanation of staff shortages. I seem to have no power. Signed, Powerless
Dear Powerless: It appears you might benefit from the assistance of a long-term care ombudsman. This advocate, provided through the local Area Agency on Aging, offers their services at no charge.

Ombudsmen make routine visits to long-term care facilities to monitor the quality of care and advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Their role is to serve the residents, not the facility, advocating for their health, safety, welfare and rights while handling issues ranging from everyday concerns, to critical issues involving abuse or neglect.

An ombudsman assists in situations where care isn’t meeting expectations and can help you find the right type of care. Here are some hypothetical scenarios to help illustrate:

Mrs. Smith, whose husband was suffering from a neurological condition, faced a hurried and incomplete process when she admitted him to a nursing home. She was left without guidance on handling issues or who to approach for creating a care plan. With ombudsman intervention, Mrs. Smith was directed to the appropriate contacts within the facility, ensuring development of a proper care plan and a reliable point of contact for any further concerns.

In another instance, Mrs. Jenkins could no longer meet her husband’s care needs at home. After a positive tour with a salesperson, she found her spouse unexpectedly passed over for admission to a memory care unit in an assisted living facility. With the help of an ombudsman, she discovered the facility lacked on-site nursing care, which would necessitate another move should her husband’s care needs increase. The ombudsman provided an informative comparison between assisted living and skilled nursing care, along with a list of suitable facilities.

Facilities are legally mandated to display signage prominently, providing residents with information on contacting an ombudsman. 


Every county in the U.S. has an assigned Area Agency on Aging ombudsman. 

Mesa County currently has two long-term care ombudsmen:

• Marilyn Richardson, Colorado
Legal Services: 970-852-5360

• Rob Huff, Mesa County Area Agency on Aging: 970-256-2491

In Montrose and Delta counties, contact the ombudsman with Region 10 Area Agency on Aging at 970-249-2436.

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