Through the ombudsman’s regular visits, residents have an easy and available means to solving any issues they encounter.
Ombudsmen seek to reduce the sense of isolation some residents feel, especially those who do not have close family or friends. Ombudsmen can help the resident rediscover a sense of self determination and exercise their rights.
Although all facilities are required to have a formal grievance procedure, residents can be hesitant to speak up about their concerns for any number of reasons. Sometimes, the resident has a real fear of retaliation from a staff member, for example.
For residents who hesitate to speak even to the ombudsman about a problem, ombudsmen have the advantage of being able to build a relationship over time. In these cases, the ombudsman, who is not tied to the facility by employment or other relationship, can become a trusted confidant and may be viewed as more objective.
In addition, ombudsmen learn the importance of maintaining strict confidentiality when it comes to the identity of any resident who has a complaint. This makes a trust relationship possible between ombudsman and resident.
At no time will ombudsmen take action on a complaint, begin an investigation, or discuss the complaint if the resident has not expressly given consent.
When the ombudsman does take action, his/her aim is always to first provide support and encouragement so residents can solve the problem by themselves. It is much better to empower them to solve their own concerns than to “take over” the situation!
In any case, the ombudsman always moves (or chooses not to take action) at the resident’s direction, unless extraordinary circumstances demand otherwise.Ombudsman volunteers are special. They make a significant, personal commitment to the program, through not only their ongoing learning but also their regular contacts with residents, reporting, and travel.