At a time when communication with loved ones in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living and board and care homes is more critical than ever due to the pandemic, the services provided by Felton’s Long-term Care Ombudsman program are essential.

The Ombudsman Program is a federally mandated visiting advocacy program. Professional staff and volunteers receive and investigate complaints regarding the health, safety, welfare, and rights of older adults and people with disabilities living in long-term care facilities. It is the only long-term care advocacy program in the United States. Its mission is to advocate for the dignity, quality of life, and quality of care for residents living in long-term care facilities. They investigate and report abuse or neglect and work toward resolving problems. Additionally, if a person in a licensed nursing home wants to draft advance health care directives, one of the witnesses must be an ombudsman.

San Francisco Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, Felton Institute

Senior Division Director Cathy Spensley says,

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program has been at the center of the crisis, which first impacted residents in skilled nursing facilities, like Laguna Honda. Working with San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM), within days of being asked to distribute materials about the virus, the Ombudsman staff and volunteers distributed essential informational materials about COVID-19 to all 81 skilled nursing facilities, assisted living and board and care homes in the City. Since then, the Ombudsman program staff continues to provide essential information to residents and family members to help them adapt to the restrictions in facilities, as well as to conduct investigations around any reports of elder abuse and provide important mediation, as needed, in these difficult times for everyone.“

Benson Nadell is the program director of the Ombudsman Program. He first joined Felton’s staff in 1986 and leads a dedicated team devoted to advocacy. Julie Schneider, a Field Service Coordinator, first joined the ombudsman program as a volunteer in 2012 and has been a staff member since 2015. She is passionate about the work.

Here Julie shares some thoughts compiled from staff and volunteers:

  • “There are no words that convey the great honor and pleasure it has been to help folks living in long-term care facilities.
  • Being an Ombudsman fits with the notion that ‘it is in giving that we receive’.
  • This has been one of the most personally rewarding endeavors of my adult life.
  • It’s a great feeling to be able to help solve a problem, no matter how small, for a resident.
  • Being an Ombudsman gives me the opportunity to apply my best skills. It feels great to be able to sit with someone and listen to their life stories that otherwise might not have been told.”

Ombudsman services are free and confidential. Anyone can file a complaint on behalf of a person living in a nursing or residential care facility. Ombudsmen are trained professionals who are certified by the State of California. Their chief concerns are residents’ rights, dignity, and quality of life. They play an indispensable part in the well-being of people who cannot speak for themselves.

For more information, contact: or 415-751-9788

This month we invite you to consider a contribution to Felton Institute for its programs. If you are moved by the work of Felton’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program or any of Felton’s programs, we invite you to invest in services that continue making our communities stronger during unprecedented times.

Donating is easy! 
You can donate online at and designate the Older Adult/Senior Services to support Felton’s Senior Programs including the San Francisco Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Donation Page


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About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.

Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties.

Felton is named for its social services pioneer and executive director Dr. Katharine “Kitty” Felton who was called the ”conscience of San Francisco” and was committed to ensuring that children and families in crisis have access to social services and resources in order to help them build upon their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency.