Grant Will Expand Advocacy for Nursing Home Residents

A Healthy Aging grant of nearly $400,000 will allow AgeWays Nonprofit Senior Services to double the number of advocates who fight on behalf of nursing home residents and their families.

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund (MHEF) awarded $386,188 to AgeWays, which houses the Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) program for the six counties in its service region. The grant will “address the chronic underfunding of Michigan’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, aiming to demonstrate that adequate resourcing improves care quality, prevents abuse and neglect, and enhances the quality of life for residents in long-term care facilities,” the MHEF wrote in awarding the grant.

Michigan ranks near the bottom for funding

Michigan budgets about $2 million annually for the program, ranking the state 47th nationally in funding. AgeWays, along with AARP Michigan, unsuccessfully advocated for an additional $3 million in this year’s state budget to bolster the LTCO program.

 “It will continue to be a priority, and hopefully it will end up in the state budget in 2025,” says Katie Wendel, AAA’s Director of Planning and Advocacy.

While the MHEF grant will allow AgeWays to hire three additional long-term care ombudsmen, the money will cover just two years.

But it’s a positive, nonetheless.

“We are thrilled that MHEF recognizes the need for additional ombudsman services in our region and was willing to support the program by providing immediate relief to increase access to these vital services,” Wendel says.

Ombudsmen are stretched thin

The three ombudsmen who staff the LTCO program at AgeWays are among just 20 throughout Michigan whose role it is to monitor complaints lodged by residents of licensed long-term care facilities, primarily nursing homes, and their families.

Ombudsmen also focus on quality of life for residents, such as call light response time, personal hygiene, treatment by staff, and other issues.

The trio monitors 140 long-term care facilities in Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties. Last year they fielded 1,100 complaints from families alone. Without more staff, they can address only the most severe problems.

There are some 100,000 nursing home residents and residents of other licensed long-term facilities in Michigan. The average statewide ratio of ombudsman to long-term care facility resident is 1:5200. The grant will enable AgeWays to reduce the number to 1 ombudsman to 2000 residents in a few areas within the six-county region served by AgeWays.

Salli Pung, the State Long Term Care Ombudsman, is heartened by the MHEF grant.

“While our program is in need of additional funding statewide, this grant will allow the Region 1-B long-term care ombudsmen to extend advocacy services to so many more long-term care residents in southeast Michigan. We are excited to see the positive impact of these much-needed additional resources,” she says.

The MHEF awarded a total of $14.3 million to support 48 initiatives throughout Michigan that 48 will support older adults and their caregivers, engage changemakers in health equity and access, leverage close community partnerships to drive wide-reaching efforts in community health, and more.


The Michigan Health Endowment Fund works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents and reduce the cost of healthcare, with a special focus on children and seniors. You can find more information about the Health Fund at