Department of Family Services – Older Adults

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

TTY 711

12011 Government Center Parkway, Suite 708
Fairfax, VA 22035

Trina Mayhan-Webb,

Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Frequently Asked Questions

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Works in Nursing and Assisted Living Facilities
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program can assist in resolving complaints about the quality of care and quality of life in these long-term care settings. The services are free and confidential. The Ombudsman can help you understand your rights and that the long-term care facility supports them.
  • The Ombudsman acts only at the direction and consent of the consumer or their authorized representative. The Ombudsman does not have enforcement power. This often makes way for creative solutions to problems that meet both the consumer's and the provider's interests.
  • When a consumer cannot speak for himself or herself, the Ombudsman may assist the consumer's legal representative, family member or sponsor on behalf of the consumer.
  • The program was mandated under the Older Americans Act in 1978 and the regional program for Northern Virginia was established in 1985. The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman program covers the jurisdictions of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun. We now cover more than 135 facilities in the Northern Virginia region.
  • Anyone can call us for information from any location. Our intake phone number is 703-324-5861, TTY 711; if you would like to request reasonable accommodations, please call 703-449-1186 or TTY 711. There are 7 paid staff Ombudsmen and approximately 40 Volunteer Ombudsmen that cover facilities in the Northern Virginia region.
  • Ombudsmen conduct site visits to all of these facilities and open cases when necessary. We also receive requests on the Intake Line to look into opening a case.

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What should I do if I have a complaint?
  • First, we suggest you address your concern to the provider of the long-term care service. Often, your expression of concern is the first step toward resolving a problem.
  • If you are unable to solve the problem yourself, the Ombudsman can help. Remember that if you do call us, your call will be treated confidentially and you control the extent of our involvement. The Ombudsman acts only at the direction and consent of the consumer or their authorized representative.
  • The Ombudsman Program paves the way for the solutions of problems arising between providers and consumers. We work to ensure that long-term care services are being provided appropriately and with respect for the consumer's rights. Since the Ombudsman does not have enforcement power, it often makes way for creative solutions to problems that meet both the consumer's and the provider's interests.
  • The Ombudsman handles complaints about long-term care services and serves as a liaison voicing the needs and concerns of the consumer to providers of long-term care. The Ombudsman often serves as a negotiator between you and the provider to keep little problems from becoming big ones.
  • The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is not a licensing/regulatory agency, but may work together with a licensing/regulatory agency.  The Ombudsman does not enforce regulations for long-term care facilities or providers. Where the enforcement of a state or federal law or rule is necessary, the Ombudsman will work on your behalf to coordinate with the proper state agency that has enforcement authority. In these cases, the Ombudsman serves as a broker to link you with the services or agencies you need to help you live a more productive, fulfilling life.

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What type of information is available about long-term care providers?

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman assists the consumer in making an informed decision about long-term care providers (nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, adult day programs and home care agencies) by offering information regarding providers' available services; Virginia Department of Health Licensure Inspection Survey Reports; checklists of typical questions concerning placement; and what to expect from the admissions process.

  • We can assist in resolving complaints through negotiation or investigation.
  • We can assist you in exercising your rights.
  • We can provide information about nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, home care agencies, and residents' rights.
  • We can provide weekly visits to facility residents through our volunteer program.

We advocate for persons receiving care in their homes, or in nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.  The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program receives funding through the jurisdictions of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun.  As of July 1, 2013, for facilities in the Prince William jurisdiction, please call 703-792-7662, TTY 711.  Anyone can call our program regardless of where they live, whether in another state or another country, for information on long-term care. 

For further information about services for older adults, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA):

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What are Residents' Rights?

You have the right to:

  • Be informed of your rights, rules and regulations governing your care, conduct and responsibilities.
  • Be informed of available services and related charges.
  • Participate in planning your care and treatment.
  • Be informed of reasons for transfer or discharge and be given reasonable advance notice.
  • Voice grievances and recommend changes in policy.
  • Manage your personal financial affairs.
  • Be free from mental and physical abuse and from unauthorized chemical and physical restraints.
  • Confidential treatment of your personal and medical records and approval or refusal of their release.
  • Be treated with recognition of dignity, individuality and privacy.
  • Not perform services for the facility without your consent.
  • Have private communication with persons of your choice and to send and receive unopened mail.
  • Participate in social, religious and community activities.
  • Maintain and use personal clothing and possessions as space permits.
  • Have privacy for visits with your spouse, family and friends.
  • Have information on the rights and responsibilities of residents posted in a visible place.

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What is the Difference Between Licensed and Unlicensed Facilities?

Unlicensed facilities can impact vulnerable residents in the following ways:

  • No regulatory oversight
  • Untrained or no staff
  • No fire safety or resident safety inspections
  • No voice for residents
  • Fear of eviction or retaliation
  • No health care
  • Deplorable living conditions
  • Poor nutrition
  • No 30-day advance notice of discharge; no relocation assistance; no possible appeal rights or advocacy opportunities

Medicare provides information through Nursing Home Compare to help consumers research nursing home facilities, and includes inspection reports. These can be seen by entering the facility name and scrolling down the page to see the list of inspections. The Virginia Department of Social Services provides information about assisted living facilities that can be viewed by entering the facility name.

It's important to go the extra mile and check the licensing agency's website to confirm the facility's licensure status. For nursing facilities, you can check with the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Licensure and Certification at 804-367-2100, TTY 711. For assisted living facilities, you can check with the Virginia Department of Social Services at 703-934-1505, TTY 711. 

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What are the different types of Power of Attorney (POA)?
  • Do you know the difference between a Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney? According to the Virginia State Bar Association, a Power of Attorney, or POA, is in effect until the person who is the patient is not capable of handling his/her own affairs. If the person becomes incapacitated or disabled or dies, the POA generally is no longer in effect.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is more useful if someone becomes incapacitated the DPOA stays in effect and saves the person from a court proceeding to appoint a guardian. As a practical matter, most attorneys recommend the use of a Durable Power of Attorney over a Power of Attorney because the Durable Power of Attorney is long lasting.
  • Having a Power of Attorney can assist in the management of assets and health care when a person becomes incapacitated. The Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) allows a person to give authority to another person to make financial transactions and make legal decisions on your behalf. The term "durable" means it is in effect even if the person it refers to becomes mentally incompetent. In Virginia, signatures must be witnessed by a notary public. A DPOA is a relatively easy, inexpensive mechanism for allowing another person to handle your legal and financial affairs, but must use your assets for your benefit.
  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC) is an advance directive that allows you to appoint a health care agent (also known as an attorney-in-fact, a proxy, or a surrogate) to make health care decisions for you in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself.  No attorney is required to draft this document, but if you need specific wording that is not as broad as a pre-printed form, you may want to speak with an attorney to draft it to meet your individual needs.
  • Unless you stipulate otherwise, your health care agent makes decisions for you only if you are no longer able to make health care decisions for yourself. By selecting someone to act as the health care decision maker through a DPAHC, you ensure that someone you trust will oversee decisions and implement your wishes regarding any treatment, not just life-sustaining treatment.
  • According to the Virginia State Bar Association, a Power of Attorney differs from Guardianship in that Guardianship involves the court appointment of a person to have care and custody of another person who is incapacitated and unable to provide for his or her own personal needs or to manage his or her financial affairs. A Guardianship may not be needed if a person has an adequate Durable Power of Attorney.

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The Advance Health Care Directive Registry
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia Advance Health Care Directive Registry is a secure tool, available to all legal Virginia residents, to store documents that detail and protect health care wishes in the event a person is unable to speak for themselves. This free and secure registry is located on the Virginia Department of Health website.

The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all programs and services. For more information, reasonable accommodations or alternate formats, please call 703-324-5861; TTY 711. 

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