Ombudsman Long-Term Care Program, Advocating for Nursing Home Residents

Ombudsman Long-Term Care Program, Advocating for Nursing Home Residents

Executive Director Aisha LaRoche and Ombudsman LTC program volunteers

Ombudsman is Swedish for citizen advocate.  Aisha LaRoche is the executive director of the Ombudsman Long-Term Care (LTC) Program of Northeast Indiana, the largest standalone ombudsman nonprofit in the state that has been advocating for local nursing home residents for the last 12 years.  LaRoche has served as director for 10 of those

The Ombudsman LTC program receives calls daily and complaints fall into a range of categories: bed sores that don’t heal, cold food, dirty linens, possessions stolen, etc.  LaRoche also said residents might fear retaliation for reporting, so a family member will contact the program.  For instance, her office sees a lot of cases of involuntary transfer discharges, when a nursing home, for whatever reason, evicts a resident after a 30-day notice is given.

“And 99% of the time, I win those cases [on appeal] because I’m following the regulations of the Indiana State Department of Health to keep that residents there,” LaRoche said.  “Everything we do is resident driven.”

The director oversees 80+ facilities across nine counties, making it impossible for the executive director to be everywhere.  She relies on a volunteer trainer and a part-time volunteer support specialist. 

She also solicits help from the community in the form of volunteer ombudsmen and women who the program certifies through the state and trains to visit nursing facilities on behalf of the office.  The active count is 14, but the office is always looking for more (see below).

The Southeast side of Fort Wayne and its roughly six nursing facilities, has some of the poorer nursing facilities, occupied with strong African-American/minority numbers.  Those nursing homes get more complaints,” compared to the other facilities, LaRoche said.

The following, un-italicized text was provided by Executive Director LaRoche.

Residents’ Rights are guaranteed by the federal 1987 Nursing Home Reform Law.  The law requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident” and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity and self-determination.  Nursing homes must meet federal resident rights’ requirements if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid.  A person living in a long-term care facility maintains the same rights as an individual in the larger community.

Some of those rights include:

The Right to Be Fully Informed

Residents should be informed of available services and charges for each service.  Facility rules, regulations, and resident rights should be provided in writing along with the addresses and telephone numbers of the Ombudsman and the Indiana State Department of Health.

Right to Complain

Residents have the right to present grievances without the fear of retaliation and with prompt efforts by the facility to resolve grievances and or concerns.

Right to Make Independent Choices

Residents have the right to make independent choices about what they wear, who they visit, how to spend free time, and to choose a physician of their choice.

Rights During Transfers and Discharges

While staying in a nursing home a resident may be asked to leave by the nursing facility for reasons including (but not limited to): a.) is necessary to meet the resident’s welfare or b.) is needed to protect the health and safety of other residents.  However, a resident should be given a 30-Day Discharge notice.  The resident then has 10 days to appeal the transfer or discharge.  Once the Indiana State Department of health receives the appeal, a hearing will be scheduled.

A huge part of resident rights is to ensure that residents are able to live lives with dignity, self-determination, and with the support of the best possible care.  

If you have a loved living in a nursing and have questions about their care and or their rights – please contact the LTC Ombudsman Program and we will provide answers and guidance.  Our services are free and confidential.

Volunteer Ombudsman Opportunities

If you have a passion for the elderly and disabled; consider becoming a Volunteer Ombudsman. Initial training consists of two to four hours and includes 4 mandatory trainings per year. Volunteers are given a nursing facility convenient in location and are asked to visit the facility twice per month. Once trained, Volunteer Ombudsman, are certified through the Indiana State Ombudsman Program. Interested?

The Ombudsman LTC program is ramping up for their annual fundraiser

Contact the LTC Ombudsman Program at 260.469.3161 or visit on the web at