JAN NOYES: What’s life in long-term care without respect?

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Rosemary, living in a Pennsylvania nursing home, says, “Quality care means that I have what I need when I need it, and that I’m treated with respect. Life would have little meaning without respect.”

Every resident in long-term care, in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities everywhere, desires and deserves respect.

So what does respect mean in long-term care? It means that:

• Residents have privacy during cares,

• Staff is courteous and friendly,

• Food is hot, nutritious and tasty,

• The environment is clean, orderly, and safe,

• There is a variety of enjoyable activities,

• Medication is delivered on time,

• Call lights are answered in a timely manner,

• Individual choices are considered,

• Questions are answered patiently,

• Staff talks to the residents and not over them,

• There is ample staff to meet residents’ needs,

• Residents are treated as unique individuals,

• Individual attention is given to each resident, and

• Residents are treated as if their residence is their home.

Long-term care should be about the residents first. Of course, business should be profitable. After all, without facilities, where would all those thousands of elders go when care becomes necessary?

Managing the balance between quality care and profit must lean toward quality care. There are good facilities here that do just that, but there are always enough problems in our area that make an ombudsman program necessary.

It would be ideal if every long-term care facility owner, corporation, and administrator would treat all the residents as if they were their own loved ones. How long would their loved ones sit in a wet brief, eat cold food, be ignored, lose privacy, or be rushed through cares?

Ombudsmen, like me, Roseanna Lewis, Jan Young, and our 13 volunteer ombudsmen are problem-solvers. We visit the facilities, observe the environment, talk to the residents, and solve problems. It’s not always that easy, but we’re all well trained and we make a positive difference in the lives of the residents.

The Ombudsman Program is part of The Older Americans Act, and gives ombudsmen license to go anywhere in the buildings, talk privately to the residents, and even (with the resident’s permission) look at their records. HIPPA does not apply to us because we are a health oversight organization.

Our main concerns are resident rights, quality of care and quality of life. That includes the environment, safety issues, access to information, individual choices, and all aspects of facility care and caregiving.

Looking for a rewarding way to serve? A new volunteer training is coming up Sept. 11 to Oct. 23, one day a week for seven weeks, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Upon graduation, volunteers become Assistant Ombudsmen and each is assigned a facility (with their approval). The volunteers are mentored until each feels comfortable enough to go it alone.

• • •

Be a voice for those vulnerable elders that won’t, don’t, or can’t speak for themselves. Contact Jan Noyes, Volunteer Ombudsman Coordinator, at the Area Agency on Aging, 208-667-3179 or jnoyes@aaani.org.

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