MDHS Ombudsman serves as the voice of the residents of long-term care facilities
(Jackson, Miss.) – The COVID-19 pandemic has created new concerns for families of our aging population and their safety, even when under the care of a qualified Long-Term Care facility. Through the State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, families can be alleviated of that stress and feel confident that their loved one is safe and secure.
In keeping with the federal Older Americans Act of 1965 and Mississippi state law, the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) Division of Aging and Adult Services established the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Through leadership, oversight and monitoring, the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman ensures the program provides services that protect the health, safety, welfare and the rights of residents in long-term care facilities.
“In many cases, we serve as the voice of residents of long-term care facilities as well as a mediator for families,” said Lisa M. Smith, MDHS State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “In most cases, we will work directly with facilities to alleviate concerns of residents and their families, or if necessary, report it to the State Department of Health for them to investigate.
“Our goal is to improve residents’ quality of life.”
Complaint resolution is a prime responsibility of all ombudsmen, particularly district and local ombudsmen. Smith assists consenting residents of long-term care facilities to resolve problems or complaints through investigation, verification and notification.
The ombudsman also stresses confidentiality in their relations with residents and their families. In addition, in cases where a family member has a complaint or feels a certain action should be taken but the resident is able to make decisions and does not approve the request, they will advocate on behalf of the resident.
Her duties include making direct contact with the resident and/or his or her representative, including an on-site investigation and negotiation where necessary and/or referral to appropriate agencies. Empowerment is a strategy utilized to encourage residents to find their own voices encouraging self-advocacy.
Monthly visits to nursing homes and personal care homes are made by local ombudsmen for the purposes of monitoring and assessing the general condition of residents and assuring that residents’ needs are met and their rights are being protected.
Other duties of the state ombudsman include:
· Prohibiting inappropriate disclosure of the identity of any complainant or resident with respect to the files, records or other information obtained by the state, district or local ombudsmen. Confidentiality is paramount for ombudsmen and is fiercely protected.
· Analyzing the success and barriers of the ombudsman program and recommending systemic advocacy in evaluating the problems experienced by the complainant or complaints made by or on behalf of a resident.
· Working in conjunction with district and local ombudsmen to recommend changes to public policy through annual reporting to Administration for Community Living, collaborate with other agencies and advocate while providing technical assistance to other employees regarding long-term care issues.
· Coordinating the scheduling of fair hearings when residents of long-term care facilities face issues concerning involuntary discharges from long-term care facilities.
Anyone who needs assistance for a long-term care resident or facility should contact Lisa M. Smith at 601-359-4927, or toll free at 1-888-844-0041.
For more information on the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, visit https://www.mdhs.ms.gov/adults-seniors/state-long-term-care-ombudsman/
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