Long Term Care Ombudsman: What do we do?
As Long Term Care Ombudsmen for Alaska, our mission is to meet with residents of assisted living homes and nursing facilities to see if they have any issues they need assistance in resolving. An important part of this process is to make sure residents and their families know there is a Long Term Care Ombudsman to help them if they need it.
Established by the Older Americans Act, the Long Term Care Ombudsman program is federally and state mandated to provide independent oversight and advocacy services to residents in Alaska’s nursing facilities and assisted living homes. The Long Term Care Ombudsman program is a resident centered advocacy program designed to protect the rights, health, safety and welfare of Alaskans living in long term care facilities. In Alaska, the Long Term Care Ombudsman program also provides advocacy to seniors with complaints about their residential circumstances.
Usually when I tell people that I am the State Long Term Care Ombudsman, they respond with a confused look. So we have been working hard to solve this identity problem in the last two years. We provided 39 presentations to the public and providers in the last year. We also provided consultations to 399 individuals who called our office as well as to 152 facilities. We have also begun to meet regularly with other agencies and providers to see how we can work better together.
Another change we have made that has resulted in better relationships with residents is to assign our ombudsmen to specific regions so they get to know residents and staff. This has helped residents feel comfortable in contacting “their” ombudsman. It also helps us match people to appropriate long term care placements as we know the characteristic of each home, staff and residents.
Currently in Alaska, there are 18 nursing homes serving 692 individuals in 16 communities. In addition, there are 250 assisted living homes who serve 4,734 seniors in 26 communities. In the last year, we have worked hard to increase the number of unannounced visits to long term care facilities from 435 to 927. We were able to visit all the facilities licensed to serve seniors and made quarterly visits to 76 facilities.
As the number of seniors continues to grow exponentially, the ability of the Long Term Care Ombudsman program to respond to complaints will become increasingly difficult with the current staffing levels. Our plan to address this issue is to work to expand our volunteer ombudsman program from 30 volunteers to 100 in the next three years. Our ultimate goal is to have a volunteer visit every facility on a monthly basis.
Can you give three hours a month to volunteer as a long term care ombudsman to visit with residents in long term care facilities? Please call our office at 907-334-4480 if you are interested in volunteering.