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Inside The Senior Alliance: State Long Term Care Ombudsman (Ep 42)

In this episode, Emma Case, Planning and Advocacy Specialist at The Senior Alliance, is joined by Salli Pung, State Long Term Care Ombudsman. They discuss the role of the long term care ombudsman, how the program is funded, and how they help senior adults. You will also learn about legislation that will increase the funding for the ombudsman program so that they can increase the number of ombudsmen across the State of Michigan, how to get ahold of your local ombudsman if you need help, and how you can also help to volunteer. Produced by The Senior Alliance and Blazing Kiss Media.

Emma Case (00:00):
Welcome to Inside The Senior Alliance, a podcast exploring resources and issues in the field of aging. I’m Emma, Case, Planning and Advocacy Specialist at The Senior Alliance, the Area Agency on Aging, serving Western and Southern Wayne County. Joining me today is Salli Pung, State Long Term Care Ombudsman. Thanks for joining me today, Salli.

Salli Pung (00:17):
Thank you for inviting me Emma.

Emma Case (00:19):
Salli, can you explain what a long term care or LTC ombudsman is, what they do for older adults and where do these ombudsman work?

Salli Pung (00:27):
So long term care ombudsman are resident directed advocates for people who live in nursing homes, homes for the aged and adult foster care homes. We meet with residents to hear their concerns. We discuss options to address those concerns, and we work to resolve the resident’s concerns, but only with consent from the resident. Due to our program’s strict confidentiality requirements, our services are provided free of charge and are available to all long term care residents.

Emma Case (00:54):
How are you funded?

Salli Pung (00:55):
So the program is authorized under the Older Americans Act and the Older Michiganians Act. So our funds come through federal and state grants, and sometimes with local funding like senior millage.

Emma Case (01:07):
There are over a hundred thousand long term care residents in Michigan. How many ombudsman are there across the state?

Salli Pung (01:13):
Well, currently we have 20 paid or local ombudsmen, and 17 of them are full-time, and we have 3 that are part-time at this time.

Emma Case (01:22):
Do you have any volunteers for the program? And if so, how would somebody get involved with that?

Salli Pung (01:27):
Sure. We’re really excited that we currently have 11 volunteers and we’re always looking for people wanting to volunteer their time and talents to visit with long term care residents and help them resolve concerns. So if someone is interested, they can call our state office at (517) 827-8040 to learn more about volunteering. Or if they happen to run into one of those local ombudsman, they can reach out to them and ask as well.

Emma Case (01:54):
National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine did a study on the ombudsman program. What did they find?

Salli Pung (02:01):
Well, I think one of the most interesting outcomes of that study is a recommendation that ombudsman programs should be funded to provide one paid full-time ombudsman for every 2000 long term care beds.

Emma Case (02:14):
What is the statewide average on beds to ombudsman?

Salli Pung (02:17):
Currently, our statewide average is 5,641 beds per ombudsman, full-time equivalent. So our ratios range from as low as 2,342 beds in a very rural large area to the highest ratio at 11,933 beds in a really densely populated area.

Emma Case (02:41):
How many ombudsman would be needed to meet this ratio that was suggested?

Salli Pung (02:45):
To meet the 1 to 2000 ratio we would need at least 50 full-time local ombudsman.

Emma Case (02:50):
In our last episode, episode 41, we discussed our advocacy priorities at The Senior Alliance and with our state association 4AM. One of the state advocacy asks is to permanently increase the MDHHS budget by $3 million in fiscal year 25 to achieve and maintain the ratio of 1 to 2000 long term care ombudsman across Michigan. What’s the potential impact that more ombudsman could have on these long term care residents?

Salli Pung (03:17):
Emma, I’m so excited about this opportunity to even think about having such a significant increase to our ombudsman program, but when I think about what impact it could have for residents, I think some of the top impacts I think of are shorter or no wait times for callers, participation in more community events by our ombudsman, we can provide more staff training on resident rights and abuse prevention. Our residents would have more time with our ombudsman to work on a larger number of their concerns and not be limited to priority issues. Unfortunately, we do have to have limits and priorities for our program because of the limited number of ombudsman we currently have. I also think we’d have more time for in-person visits to more homes, and that helps build relationships and accountability that’s critical to being an effective advocate. And I think most importantly, we’d have more time to recruit and manage volunteers.

Emma Case (04:10):
If one of our listeners is listening to this and they know somebody in a nursing facility who may need an ombudsman, how do they get connected with your program?

Salli Pung (04:20):
The easiest way is to call our geo routed phone number, and that number is 866-485-9393 or you can visit our website. It’s and there’s a tab that says locate your local ombudsman. And when you click on that tab, you select the county in which the resident is living and you can see a photo of the local ombudsman and all of their direct contact information.

Emma Case (04:50):
Salli, thank you for joining me today on this episode.

Salli Pung (04:52):
Emma, you’re so welcome, and thank you for your interest in the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Emma Case (04:57):
If you have any questions about our services or programs that The Senior Alliance offers, you can call us at (734) 722-2830 or email us at Information about our agency or the programs and services we offer can be found on our website at On Facebook, we can be located by searching The Senior Alliance. Finally, our X, formerly known as Twitter handle, is @AAA1C. I’m Emma Case. Thank you for listening to this episode of Inside The Senior Alliance.

Speaker 3 (05:31):
Inside The Senior Alliance is a production of The Senior Alliance and Blazing Kiss Media.


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