Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has said she will shortly publish an investigation report into long-term care for the elderly operated by the Health Service Executive.
She said it will tell of a largely chaotic ad hoc system in which many people were confused about their rights and entitlements.
Ms O’Reilly said elderly people also suffered years of stress and crippling expense because of the deliberate failure of the system to clarify their rights to public care.
The Ombudsman told the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal that in many instances people were encouraged to go into private care on the understanding that they would move once a public bed became available.
She also criticised what she calls the 'creeping privatisation' of long-term care for the elderly, which she says has seen the State divest itself of the legal obligation to provide care.
Ms O'Reilly said she believes the Government's new nursing homes support scheme places the emphasis on privatisation.
Watch videos from the MacGill Summer School