JAN NOYES: Long-term care volunteer ombudsmen needed

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Imagine being on an airplane. You’re assigned a seat with strangers, you eat when and what food is served, you’ve lost your freedom to move about, you follow a schedule not of your own making, and you depend on others to get you where you need to go. Imagine being there for the rest of your life.

For many elderly adults that’s what it’s like to move into a nursing home or an assisted living facility. Until now they were independent and made their own choices. They were surrounded by all their possessions, came and went as they pleased, and had the freedom to pursue their interests. But things changed and living at home became unsafe.

Living alone can be difficult for those needing care. Family caregivers may be financially, physically or emotionally unable to cope, and moving a loved one into a long-term care facility is the best alternative. But facilities are expensive…$3,500 to $7,000 a month is not unusual. There’s Medicaid, but only people of limited means can qualify.

You’d think for that price that good care and quality of life would be a given. You’d think that every facility would pamper its residents. You’d think that the environment, meals and care-giving would be first class. Well, some facilities are attractive, healthy, caring places. But some facilities care more about the bottom line than about giving residents the very best care and quality of life they deserve.

Does money talk? You bet. Most facilities have only so many Medicaid beds. The rest are private pay… the ones that make owning long-term care facilities profitable. You can’t blame the owners for being concerned about profit. It’s expensive to operate a facility. However, no matter what someone’s financial status, residents deserve the care they signed up for and the quality of life they earned contributing to our society for so many years.

Did you know that there are residents that ran successful businesses, raised families in log cabins they built themselves, played the piano professionally, and received medals for bravery in WWII? There are miners, inventors, artists, homemakers, carpenters, seamstresses, loggers, teachers, and athletes…you name it. Everyone has a story, even though there are many that can’t remember. They’re our history that has made our country great. They deserve the very best care and attention a facility can give.

The Ombudsman Program is mandated by the Older Americans Act. Ombudsmen are advocates for residents of long-term care. We visit facilities, observe the environment, talk with residents, and solve problems on their behalf. We can go anywhere in the buildings, talk to the residents in private, and look at records.

There is never a better time to volunteer. Become a much-needed, well-trained, volunteer ombudsman. A training is scheduled for every Tuesday for seven weeks, Sept. 12 through Oct. 24, at the Area Agency on Aging in Coeur d’Alene. Join our exceptional team of volunteers. For more information, contact Jan Noyes at 667-3179, ext. 243, or jnoyes@aaani.org.

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