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ELDERLY: Long-term care ombudsmen fill vital need

Letter by Mark G. Carey, Tacoma on Nov. 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm with No Comments »
November 18, 2013 1:48 pm

Recently, I spoke at a Tacoma City Council meeting. My topic was about the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. I am currently working with this program in conjunction with my graduate studies in social work.

This program is vital to the health and welfare of our vulnerable citizens who reside in long-term care settings. By job description, an ombudsman is a companion, advocate, educator, mediator and broker.

Ombudsmen are independent politically and administratively to the facilities they are assigned to. Ombudsmen are resident directed – meaning they represent the resident and their concerns. While ombudsmen do not have the power to make or alter administrative decisions, they do investigate and recommend courses of action.

Washington state has strong laws protecting resident rights at these facilities. There are 22 skilled nursing facilities (or nursing homes), 50 assisted living facilities and more than 280 adult family homes in Pierce County. The ombudsman program services approximately 7,500 beds at these facilities. Presently there are 17 volunteer ombudsmen serving the Pierce County area.

The volunteers who do this work are passionate about protecting the rights and quality of life for people at these facilities. Most of the volunteers in this program are in their 50s to 70s. They are low-level change agents who go about this difficult job with dignity and grace. I am proud to have spoken on their behalf and made the City Council aware of this vital program that watches over vulnerable citizens in our local community.

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