Community Volunteers Can Protect Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights and Dignity

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Ombudsmen Continue to Protect the Rights of Oregonians in Long-Term Care Facilities During Pandemic

STATEWIDE – Oregonians living in assisted living communities and nursing homes have faced a challenging year with the impact the COVID-19 virus has directly had in long-term care settings. The Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman program currently needs individuals willing to become Certified Ombudsmen volunteers and protectors of the rights of older adults and people with disabilities in care facilities.

Residents living and receiving care in long-term care facilities maintain their rights and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there continues to be confusion regarding these rights that protect individual dignity, choice, and self-determination. COVID-19 has spotlighted the need for Long-Term Care Ombudsman services in a time when it is difficult to visit loved ones residing in long-term care.

The Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman is asking for your help during this time. Currently, there is only 48% volunteer coverage in long-term care facilities. Long-term care residents across the state, in every county, are in need of advocates. LTCO is offering an interactive, live training, via Zoom in January and March, and invite community members to become volunteers.

Volunteer Janice Johnson with her dog Mr. Morgan when she was at an pre-Covid-19 event tabling to recruit more volunteers. Photo provided by LTCO

The Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman is an independent state agency that was established to represent those who reside in long term care, including nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, adult foster care homes, and memory care settings.

During this COVID-19 pandemic, Certified Ombudsmen have continued to advocate for Oregonians living in long-term care. Though the approaches are a little different than they have been in the past, staff and volunteer Ombudsmen are still working to stay in contact with residents and staff, and are resolving issues using the resources available.

“In this unprecedented crisis, we want residents to know they have someone to call on,” said Fred Steele, Director and Oregon’s State Long Term Care Ombudsman. “We can only advocate for someone or something if we know about it. Even if we can’t be there in person, we can investigate and work to resolve issues.”

If you are interested in attending the training, an application process must be completed, which includes submitting an application, participating in an interview, having references checked, and completing a Criminal Records Check. Volunteers are expected to commit for at least a year after completing the training.

Qualities of an advocate include:

  • Good communication and listening skills
  • Ability to work through conflicts
  • Determination, tenacity
  • Passion for helping people

Volunteer responsibilities include:

  • Talking with residents regarding concerns
  • Investigating concerns and complaints
  • Advocating for resolution

To report a concern at a long-term care facility, or to learn more about volunteering, call 1-800-522-2602, visit www.oltco.org, or watch this video. To apply to be a volunteer, fill out this form. There is a Deputy on Duty available weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you would like more information about this topic, please call or email Fred Steele at 1-800-522-2602 or [email protected]

About Author

Natascha is a Volunteer Recruitment Specialist in the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman

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