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Ombudsman FAQ 

What is the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman? 

The State Long-Term Care Ombudsman is the chief advocate for consumers of long-term care within Pennsylvania, and oversees the statewide Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. They also conduct statewide ombudsman training. Should you need assistance contacting or identifying your local ombudsman, please feel free to contact the state ombudsman. The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman is located at 555 Walnut Street, 5th Floor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101-1919; telephone (717) 783-8975.  

What is an ombudsman?

Ombudsman is Swedish for "citizen representative". Long-term care ombudsmen make themselves available to take a message of concern forward and help to resolve it on behalf of care-dependent elderly.  

Ombudsmen are client driven and client directed. As the consumer's advocate, they act on the wishes of the client.  

An ombudsman is:

  • A trained individual who can help if you have a complaint or problem with any long-term care service;
  • A source to provide information about your rights as a consumer and assistance in exercising those rights;
  • An advocate for high standards of quality of care who promotes strict enforcement of those standards;
  • A promoter of the highest quality of life for care dependent Pennsylvanians, 60 years of age and older;
  • A consumer representative who works within the legislative and rule-making process to improve long-term care services throughout the state; and,
  • A person who assists long-term care consumers in pursuing remedies to their problems.

How can an ombudsman help me?

If you are dissatisfied with your care or have a concern or a question about your care that you have been unable to resolve with the facility, the ombudsman will investigate and seek to resolve your complaint.  There is no cost for ombudsman services. 

What is the ombudsman's target population?

The following persons utilize ombudsman services:

  • Residents of long-term care facilities to include nursing facilities, personal care homes, and domiciliary care homes;
  • Individuals receiving long-term care services in their homes and community;
  • Families and friends of individuals who live in long-term care facilities; and,
  • Staff of long-term care facilities
  • Government agencies.

Will my complaint be kept confidential?

All ombudsman information collected and/or maintained by the Office of the State Ombudsman and its representatives is considered to be confidential. The identity of a complainant or older individual who is a consumer of a long-term care service will not be disclosed without the written consent of such complainant or older individual; or the individual's legal representative; or the complainant/older individual gives consent orally and such consent is documented in writing by an ombudsman; or the disclosure is required by court order.

What kinds of issues are handled?

Ombudsmen handle: questions and concerns about the rights of older consumers receiving long-term care; quality of care or treatment from a long-term care service provider; appeals regarding transfers, discharges, discontinuance or changes in services; and billing and charges, including those covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

How can I file a complaint?

Complaints may be directed to the local ombudsman or your Area Agency on Aging.

How can I contact an ombudsman?

To contact your local ombudsman, please see this list of ombudsman programs by county.

Where can I get more information about my rights as a consumer of long-term care services?

Older consumers of long-term care services have basic and special rights under Federal and State Law. Some of these rights include:

  • Right to know and exercise your rights;
  • Right to know about services and charges;
  • Right to be consulted in planning your medical treatment;
  • Right to decline medical treatment;
  • Right to confidentiality of medical records;
  • Right to privacy in treatment and care;
  • Right to freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation;
  • Right to freedom from restraints;
  • Right to express grievances without fear of retaliation:
  • Right to confidentiality of medical records;
  • Rights pertaining to admission, transfers and discharges, including the
  • Right to appeal in certain instance.
Contact your local ombudsman for more information about your rights.

Where can I get more information about regulations in nursing homes, personal care homes or domiciliary care homes?

  • Nursing Homes in Pennsylvania are regulated by the Department of Health. For information about a specific nursing home regulation, please visit the Department of Health, and search for "nursing facility regulations" or call (717) 787-1816.
  • The Department of Public Welfare regulates personal care homes in Pennsylvania. For more information about a specific personal care home regulation, please contact DPW at (717) 783-8391.
  • The Department of Aging (PDA) regulates domiciliary care homes. For more information please contact (717) 783-6207.

Can I be an ombudsman?

Volunteer ombudsmen are trained community members who compliment the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program through their local Area Agency on Aging. As representatives of a statewide coalition, volunteer ombudsmen aim to protect and inform consumers who live in community care facilities on a person-to-person basis. For more information on becoming a volunteer ombudsman, contact the local ombudsman at your Area Agency on Aging.

What other services are available through the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman?

In addition to specific questions about the statewide Ombudsman Program, the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman can also offer information regarding advance directives, resident rights, and selecting long-term care in Pennsylvania. 

How can I obtain more information about the Ombudsman Program?

To learn more about the Ombudsman Program, please contact your local  Area Agency on Aging. You may also contact the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman at (717) 783-8975.  Our e-mail address is aging@pa.gov.

How can I contact an ombudsman in another state?

A directory of State Long-Term Care Ombudsmen can be located at the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center.  

Other sites of interest include: