ST. PAUL (AP) -- Complaints about care at long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, rose 35 percent last year, according to the ombudsman for older Minnesotans.
The increase was due in part to staffing problems, said ombudsman Sharon Zoesch, who released her annual report this week.
"Nursing homes have been having more trouble hiring and retaining staff the past few years, and that turmoil has had an impact on residents," Zoesch said.
Her office settled 2,400 complaints last year, its highest number and up from 1,953 the year before. Of those, 840 were complaints about quality of care, up from 624 in 2000.
The number of care complaints could fall somewhat this year because nursing homes appear to be having fewer problems keeping employees, she said, in part because of a weaker economy.
"The highest number of complaints we settle continues to be resident-rights issues -- things like privacy, dignity, admission or discharge complaints, financial issues," said Zoesch, who has been with the state office since 1983.
The ombudsman program was started under federal law in 1978 to be an advocate for nursing-home residents and an effort to resolve disputes informally. The state Legislature added funding in 1987 and expanded the office to cover all long-term care settings and home health care.
Although it is called the Ombudsman for Older Minnesotans, the office works with people of any age in those settings, including care delivered in assisted-living apartments. But the office focuses primarily on nursing homes, which house about 37,000 Minnesotans.
On the Net: Minnesota Board on Aging: http://www.mnaging.org
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