Access to and Utilization of the Ombudsman Program Under the Older Americans Act

T-PEMD-91-11: Published: Jun 13, 1991. Publicly Released: Jun 13, 1991.

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GAO discussed the utilization, barriers, and impact of the Administration on Aging's (AOA) state-administered long-term care ombudsman program to protect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of nursing home residents. GAO noted that: (1) a 1988 study indicated that the total number of nursing home complaints was 102,231 with a median number of 906 complaints per state; (2) since AOA could not gauge the level of utilization of the ombudsman program, the number of complaints varied widely across the states; (3) state-level legal access barriers diminished greatly in all areas except that of facility administrative records, which are an important source of information for ombudsmen conducting complaint investigations; (4) ombudsmen were limited in their ability to investigate complaints on behalf of residents who were not able to consent to an investigation and who did not have a guardian to act on their behalf; (5) the lack of information on the number and location of board and care facilities and the lack of uniformity in defining such facilities limited the ability of ombudsmen to gain access to board and care residents; and (6) AOA did not collect sufficient information to evaluate the impact of the national ombudsman program. GAO believes that AOA needs to: (1) modify its annual data collection instrument to correct its defects and to facilitate measurement of the ombudsman program's utilization rates; and (2) define board and care facilities and how program resources can best be spent to meet the needs of nursing home and board and care residents.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The current reauthorization bill includes these provisions.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the Older Americans Act to grant ombudsmen explicit access to facility administrative records.


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