Long Term Care Ombudsmen - Why are they important?
April 1, 2019
Working at the office of the Long Term Care Ombudsman, I am often asked, “What exactly, do you do?” The answer is simple, we visit elders who live in assisted living homes and nursing facilities. We listen to what they have to say and work to resolve any problems they are having. Elders face a range of problems from disliking the food being served or staff being mean to elders, to physical and sexual assault. As Long Term Care Ombudsman, our job is to resolve the problem to the satisfaction of the elder. If the elder is not able to communicate with us, we work with their family or legal representative.
This week, I was listening to the Congressional hearing “Not Forgotten: Protecting Americans From Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes” (online at https://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/not-forgotten-protecting-americans-from-abuse-and-neglect-in-nursing-homes ) held on March 6 by the Senate Finance Committee. The hearing goes into detail regarding many issues being discussed at the national level regarding abuse in nursing facilities. The two stories shared by daughters whose mothers had been abused and neglected while in nursing facilities were difficult to hear. I wish I could say that these types of incidents do not happen in Alaska’s assisted living homes and nursing facilities but that is not true. In abuse and neglect situations, our role as Long Term Care Ombudsmen is to work with residents and their families to make sure the resident feels safe, or to help them move to a new placement where they do feel safe. We work with the sexual assault response teams to make sure they are prepared to work with elders, especially those with dementia, while the police and the licensing agencies work to investigate the crime.
Most people do not know about the Long Term Care Ombudsman’s services until they need our help to solve an issue. It was difficult to hear that the two daughters who testified did not have contact with the ombudsman’s office. In Alaska, we work hard to visit assisted living homes and nursing facilities as often as we can. It is important to build a relationship with the elders so that they will feel comfortable telling us their problems. Imagine how difficult it would be to complain about the person that you rely on to give you food and take you to the bathroom. While we cannot prevent every situation of abuse or neglect, the more often someone is in the facility, the less likely it is to occur.
Last year, we made 1,142 visits to 18 nursing facilities and 269 assisted living homes providing care for 3,234 elders in 28 communities across Alaska. If you like listening to elders and have two to three hours a month to volunteer, we would love your help protecting Alaska’s elders. Complete an application online at https://akoltco.org/volunteer/volunteer-application/ or call Kathryn Curry at 334-2535.