Articles written by Diana Weber


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  • A look back at our progress before moving on

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Sep 1, 2014

    Dear readers, it's time to say goodbye. I will retire next month and hand off the reins to a new Long Term Care Ombudsman. It has been a real privilege to hold this position. I've got the best staff and volunteers anyone could hope for, all of them passionate about defending the rights of older Alaskans. But the best of all has been you, the older Alaskans who show so much grit and independence in facing the daily challenges of aging. My job is to make sure our program provides seniors with...

  • Don't let assisted living home kick you to the curb

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Aug 1, 2014

    In the last 30 days, the Ombudsman has received five complaints that seniors are being threatened with involuntary discharge from their assisted living homes. This is often a terrifying prospect to a frail senior who doesn’t have the energy or mental capacity to fight for the right to stay in the home. So this month’s column will consider the rights that residents have under state law. As one canny senior said to me, “I know they can’t just kick me to the curb.” First off, I hope that anyone wo...

  • There are many ways to help out a caregiver

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Jun 1, 2014

    I’ve been exchanging emails and phone calls with a woman who is taking care of her husband at home. As his Alzheimer’s progresses, her days and nights become more and more challenging. She never knows when he is going to wake up and need her. She can’t always anticipate what he might do next, like lock himself in the bathroom. Hardest of all, she knows she can’t give in to her grief and cry because it scares him. He needs to see a smiling face. There are a lot of brave, committed family caregiv...

  • Long term care rights and sexual orientation

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Apr 1, 2014

    Research suggests that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender elders are disproportionately represented in long term care facilities because, compared to their heterosexual counterparts, LGBT elders are much less likely to have family members who can care for them at home. Yet it is rare for our staff ombudsmen to hear long term care residents identify themselves as LGBT. So I have to conclude that there is an invisible minority of older LGBT Alaskans who live in long term care facilities but...

  • Staff have been known to steal residents' drugs

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Mar 1, 2014

    Every time you visit your mom in the assisted living home, she complains she isn’t getting her medication. When you question staff, they show you the medication log and it seems to indicate she is getting what the doctor prescribed. Is your mom just forgetting that she was given her medication? I wouldn’t be so sure. Theft of prescription drugs is a growing problem nationally, especially controlled substances such as opioids for pain and benzodiazepines for anxiety. Health care workers have as...

  • Don't let the hospital discharge you too soon

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Feb 1, 2014

    Judging by the complaints to the Long Term Care Ombudsman, many Medicare beneficiaries and their families do not realize they have rights during the hospital discharge process. These rights are meant to protect seniors from being discharged from the hospital too soon and from being placed in a facility that cannot meet their care needs. Maybe you don’t need to know your rights as a Medicare beneficiary today, but file this column away for later. It may come in handy. When you are admitted to t...

  • Take steps to reduce caregiver confrontation

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Jan 1, 2014

    When an aging parent begins to fail, adult children often must step in to make arrangements for care. The opportunities for family conflict are enormous. Old rivalries between siblings are re-ignited. Disagreements about financial and practical matters flare up. Resentments boil over and before you know it, the adult children are hurling insults at one another in the assisted living or nursing home. I wish I could say this was uncommon, but ombudsmen regularly receive calls from home...

  • Someone you know could likely use your help

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Dec 1, 2013

    Imagine your family is far away. Strangers bathe and dress you, but you’ve had a stroke, so it is hard to explain that your roommate is stealing your things. You’re a senior in a long term care home. You need someone to speak for you. You need an ombudsman. The best kind of ombudsman is the one who lives nearby and visits your home often. The ombudsman will get to know you and take the time to listen to your concerns. She or he can step in, with your permission, and work out solutions that mee...

  • Insist on your equal opportunity housing rights

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Nov 1, 2013

    If your low income housing complex was developed with federal loans or grants, the owner must comply with federal Civil Rights law, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under the law, it is unlawful to discriminate against a tenant or prospective tenant because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, age or disability. In the case of people with disabilities, it is unlawful to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or...

  • We need more thoughtfulness in caregiving

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Oct 1, 2013

    We can judge a society by how it treats the weakest of its members. As the number of seniors with dementia rises rapidly, each of us should reflect on how we treat people disabled by Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. After all, they are our friends, family members and neighbors. Even when they cannot function as they used to do, every one of them deserves to be treated with courtesy and respect for their dignity as human persons, whether or not they are able to return the favor. This t...

  • Is the level of care keeping up with our needs?

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Sep 1, 2013

    There is a disconnect in the way we manage long term care for frail seniors. Nationally, we are moving toward taking seniors out of nursing homes and keeping them in the community, giving them more assistance in their homes or placing them in assisted living facilities. Since people generally don’t want to live in nursing homes, that’s a good thing. But we had better ask ourselves the question: are frail seniors getting the level of care they need in the community? Here’s the problem, from an om...

  • Long term care residents have inalienable rights too

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Aug 1, 2013

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson may have written that sentence in the Declaration of Independence, but these truths are not self-evident to everyone. Frail older people get bullied and their rights get trampled, at times by family members, at other times by staff in long term care facilities. The tra...

  • The top four long term care insurance complaints

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Jul 1, 2013

    The current wisdom is that 70 percent of us will need long term care at some point. Alaska’s long term care is the most expensive in the nation. So long term care financing is on a lot of people’s minds, with good reason. However, if you are thinking about purchasing long term care insurance, it really pays to do the research so you understand the product. I highly recommend the consumer guides which the state Division of Insurance has on its website at http://commerce.alaska...

  • New efforts to serve displaced Native elders

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|Jun 1, 2013

    When I lived in Bush Alaska, I used to love seeing the Native elders at the potlucks. They came from up and down the Yukon in all kinds of weather to sit together and share food and stories. As the moose nose soup bubbled and acres of salmon were placed before everyone, the feeling of community was so powerful and affirming, it simply felt wonderful to be there. It doesn’t feel wonderful to see Alaska Native elders in Anchorage long term care facilities. There are an estimated 250 Alaska N...

  • Here is some guidance about your rights as a tenant

    Diana Weber, Alaska Long Term Care Ombudsman|May 1, 2013

    For older Alaskans living on a fixed income, senior housing can be a great option. Sometimes, though, our office receives complaints about senior housing property managers who abuse their power, repeatedly entering tenants’ units without permission or threatening eviction if seniors complain about poor service. Thankfully, this does not happen often. It is very important for seniors to know their rights as tenants in order to avoid being intimidated. I’d like to recommend an easy-to-read boo...

  • Intimidation tactics trample residents' rights

    Diana Weber, For Senior Voice|Apr 1, 2013

    This month’s column is about retaliation, specifically homes that retaliate against residents who complain or who offend them in some way. Retaliation against a resident can be overt, but often it is not. Staff can delay serving a meal until it is cold, or put residents into an uncomfortably cool shower, or take 45 minutes to answer calls for assistance. It’s an abuse of power, a reminder to residents that they aren’t in charge of their lives anymore. Don’t get me wrong. There are good homes,...

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