|The definition of “ombudsman” is “one that investigates, reports on, and helps settle complaints,” according to Merriam-Webster. The term comes from the Swedish language and means citizen representative, advocate or mediator. An senior ombudsman is a trained individual who helps protect the rights of older Pennsylvanians living in long-term care facilities. Ombudsman services were established by the Older Americans Act to support consumers of long-term care services.
Long-term care is referred to as a living environment for a person residing in skilled nursing, assisted living, or a personal care home; a participant in an older adult daily living center; or a consumer living in the community. Ombudsmen are dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals receiving long-term care by working to resolve resident issues and concerns. Ombudsmen provide information, answer questions, investigate complaints and help resolve resident problems about the quality of care or treatment he or she receives.
The Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s Long-term Care Ombudsman Program works through the state’s 52 Area Agencies on Aging to provide Ombudsman services, which are performed by Area Agency on Aging staff and volunteers.
As a volunteer ombudsman you “advocate for those who can’t, support those who can and ensure all long-term care consumers live with dignity and respect.” Volunteers are directed by residents, impartial and highly visible.
Volunteer ombudsmen receive an orientation and training that includes an overview of the ombudsman program, characteristics of long-term care residents, resident rights, communication skills, and an understanding of the role volunteers play in enriching the lives of residents. Volunteers are assigned to a specific facility in Berks County. They are required to visit this facility one to four times per month (minimum of 2 hours per visit or total). Continued education is required to maintain volunteer ombudsman status.
As a volunteer ombudsman, you may be the resident’s only link to a voice that cares. As a visible resident advocate, you are helping to ensure that individuals residing in long term care facilities have a good quality of life and receive good quality care.
If you would like more information on becoming a volunteer ombudsman, contact:
Berks County Area Agency on Aging
Services Center, 8th Floor
633 Court Street
Reading, PA 19601
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