During October, Residents’ Rights Month is recognized to bring awareness to the dignity, respect and value of long-term care residents. This year’s theme is “Stand for Quality” which emphasizes the importance of standing for quality in all aspects of residents’ experiences – quality care, quality of life, quality of services and quality choices.
In Missouri, the ombudsman program administered by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) helps ensure residents are receiving this quality. Volunteer ombudsmen visit residents weekly at a local nursing home or other long-term care facility. They listen to residents’ needs and concerns, help resolve any problems or complaints they may have, and supply information on resident rights and other long-term care resources.
“It really is an enriching experience,” said Meryl Lin McKean, a volunteer ombudsman. “In this day in age, we don’t have enough face-to-face communication, and it’s good to talk and to listen, and that’s really what being an ombudsman is all about. I’m talking face-to-face with people, getting to know them and listening.”
Some of the key functions of volunteer ombudsmen are to:
- Identify, investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents;
- Provide information to residents about long-term care services and their rights;
- Advocate for changes to improve residents’ quality of life and care.
“In just one year throughout Missouri, our team of coordinators and volunteers helped residents resolve over 6,200 complaints related to their rights and their quality of care,” said Jenny Hollandsworth, State Long-Term Care Ombudsman with DHSS. “It is important that residents have someone advocating for their needs.”
The Missouri Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is currently recruiting for volunteer ombudsmen statewide. Those living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility may have times when help solving problems or addressing concerns is needed, and this program is available to assist. Volunteer ombudsmen perform invaluable work with residents and their families to resolve complaints or provide information and other assistance.
Volunteer ombudsmen like Patty Logue encourage others to get involved in the program because it not only allows them to make positive impacts on the lives of the 55,000 Missourians residing in long-term care homes, but the relationships made enrich their own lives as well.
“These people want conversation,” said Logue. “They are wonderful. They have so much to offer us, so much more than we ever give back, really.”
DHSS licenses more than 1,200 long-term care facilities in the state. For information on becoming a volunteer ombudsman, assistance in solving a problem within a facility, or help advocating for resident rights and establishing resident and family councils, contact the Missouri State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office at 1-800-309-3282 or visit health.mo.gov/ombudsman.