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Oregon Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman

3855 Wolverine St. NE, #6
Salem OR 97305
Phone: (503) 378-6303
Toll-Free: (800) 522-2602
FAX: (503) 373-0852


Categories:

Protecting Resident Rights – Ombudsmen Can Help

by: Natascha Cronin

 

The Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman program serves residents who are living in long-term care facilities by providing education, advocacy, complaint investigation, and resolution. Our mission is to protect individual rights, enhance quality of life, improve care, and promote dignity for residents who are aging and disabled. 

 

Oregonians who reside in nursing homes, assisted living and residential facilities, and adult foster homes are vulnerable and are in need of a Volunteer Ombudsman to visit, learn about their concerns, and advocate for them. Volunteer Ombudsmen are objective and fair, always acting on behalf of the resident, and working to make the care system more responsive to resident needs and wishes. These volunteer Ombudsmen receive training and are supported by professional staff. Services provided are free and confidential for residents, their families, facility staff, and the public.

 

Dennis Douglas, a current volunteer Certified Ombudsman, describes his decision to become an Ombudsman:

 

My father had congestive heart failure. When considering to live in the facility, he was assured all his needs would be met. At first, my father’s medical issues were stable. But soon, he grew weak and needed a wheelchair, which required someone to push it. Breakfast was at 8AM and because there were so few caregivers, he wasn’t assisted to the dining room until an hour later. His food was often cold and when he had finished his breakfast, it would take another hour to get him back to his room. A few days before he passed away, my father fell in his bathroom. He waited an hour on a cold tile floor before someone answered his call light. 

 

My parents’ experience with long-term care is not unique. Over-worked caregivers, medication mistakes, and increased rent for services that may or may not have been performed can be regular occurrences in some facilities. For my part, I was anxious, and I worried when I wasn’t with them. I kept my complaints to a minimum and subsidized my parents’ care with my own time. I was concerned if I complained, there may be repercussions. I saw the Ombudsman poster every night. I never called that number. It’s a disconnect I can’t explain. They both died within two and a half years of entering the facility. 

 

Eventually, I called the number and learned that I could help others. It’s too late for me to call a Long-Term Care Ombudsman to help my parents. I did the best I could, and I can live with that. But if I can help someone in a long-term care facility and make their life better, it makes my life better. Because long-term care Ombudsmen fight for residents to give them a voice and protect their rights.

 

The focus on residents’ rights and dignity provides a vital link to quality of life and care for residents. Currently, there are facilities in Northeastern Oregon without a volunteer ombudsman assigned, leaving many residents without the advocacy they need. We are seeking dedicated individuals who desire to make a difference, have a caring spirit, a willingness to learn, and can give four hours a week. 

 

To report a concern to the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or to learn more about volunteering, contact us at www.oregon.gov/ltco or call (800) 522-2602.

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