Elderly Long-Term Care: Ombudsman training a first for the Gorge

Gretchen Jordan, Coordinator of Volunteers, Oregon Long Term Care Ombudsman, has an opportunity that hasn’t been seen before in Hood River or Wasco counties: A volunteer training to be held in The Dalles Aug. 12-13, Aug. 26-27 and Sept. 10, at a location to be announced.

More critical is that there are currently no ombudsman volunteers in either county, which are currently being covered by a staff member who lives in Bend every other month.

“We’ve never had a training in Hood River or Wasco counties before,” said Jordan. “We know people don’t like to travel to Portland for training … so if we can do it in the community, people appreciate that.”

Training will include an overview of rules and regulations, how to find and apply information, the types of facilities visited, residents’ rights, how to resolve cases, how to work with other agencies, and how to recognize and report abuse.

Not many have heard of the Oregon Long Term Care Ombudsman program, Jordan said, until they are in need of the service themselves, or for a friend or family member living any licensed long-term care facility.

“This isn’t a comfortable topic as most people don’t want to address aging issues until they have to —and even then they don’t,” she said.

Certified Ombudsman — or COs — “advocate for the rights of the resident — even if it may be against the wishes of the facility, or family, because residents don’t lose any of their rights — educate staff and family about those rights, and investigate and resolve issues,” she said.

Volunteers don’t investigate neglect or abuse — that’s a responsibility of Adult Protective Services — but they are often the first person who sees and reports it.

“An ombudsman comes out and finds out what’s really going on, what’s the resident’s wish, what that person’s rights are, if there’s an issue they can resolve or investigate,” she said.

Eighty percent of the cases that volunteers investigate are solved within one or two days. For the cases that prove more complicated, “there’s staff support,” Jordan stressed. “We want them to work independently, but not in a vacuum … There’s lots of support — they’re always welcome to call into the office. People are not on their own.”

The biggest role volunteers have is simply to check in with their residents twice a month — or more, if they wish. While a facility usually has between 75 and 80 residents, an ombudsman visits just three or four.

Volunteers need to be good listeners, relate to older people, keep confidences and put aside their own agendas.

“Sooner or later, all of us will be in that position,” said Jordan. “If not us, someone we care about. And it’s important.”

For more information on the Oregon Long Term Care Ombudsman, visit www.oregon.gov/ltco — Jordan puts on a monthly webinar — or call Jordan directly at 503-983-3920. Preregistration is required to attend the training as volunteers must fill out an application and pass a background check.

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