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Notary Bulletin

Ombudsmen Help Fight Elder Abuse

If you notarize for residents at a nursing home or other long-term care facility for the elderly, you certainly stay alert for potential elder abuse and fraud targeting your signers. If you see signs of elder abuse you might be confused about what to do, or hesitant to report it. In such cases, a good resource to turn to is your local long-term care ombudsman program.

What Is An Ombudsman?

Long-term care ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They are trained to help residents of care facilities resolve concerns about living conditions, elder abuse, or fraud issues.

In California, Delaware, and Vermont, when a resident of a skilled nursing facility signs an advanced health care directive document, the law requires an ombudsman to be present as one of the witnesses. Every state is required by federal law to have an ombudsman program that addresses complaints and advocates improvements for long-term care facilities. Ombudsmen can be paid staff members or volunteers.

How Can Ombudsmen Help Notaries?

Many long-term care facilities have an ombudsman available on-site. If a Notary observes signs of abuse or coercion directed at an older signer at a facility, the Notary can report the problem to the ombudsman.

“If we become aware that a facility resident may be a victim of financial abuse, we will talk to that resident, determine if fraud is happening, and ask consent to report it to law enforcement,” said Joe Rodrigues, president of the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs (NASOP).

If there’s not an on-site ombudsman available, a Notary can report the problem to the ombudsmen program office for the area, Rodrigues said. NASOP provides a map on their site to help find local ombudsmen program offices throughout the United States.

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