Volunteers needed for ombudsman program
Imagine what it’s like to be confined to a chair and desperately in need of a restroom, only to be told it will be another hour before someone can help you.
These are the conditions some senor citizens face who live in elderly care facilities, according to Kathryne Meyers, director of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.
The Ombudsman program, started more than 20 years ago, continues to monitor the type of care the elderly receive in nursing homes and residential care facilities in the county.
“El Dorado County has a very good array of elderly care facilities,” Meyers said. “But when you’re dependent on care and assistance from others, small issues become very critical, like getting to the bathroom. Getting old is not a crime, so why should elderly people be treated less than anyone else.”
Meyers said the program relies on 12 volunteers who work anywhere from three to 20 hours a month, visiting one or two elderly facilities. Meyers is currently seeking more volunteers for the program.
In order to be a volunteer, Meyers said people have to go through a 36-hour training period that covers patients’ rights, costs, care issues, medication, diets, financial aid and numerous other issues. Volunteers work under direct supervision for a period of time before they visit facilities on their own.
Meyers said volunteers encounter issues ranging in severity from cold food, to no one helping the residents to the bathroom to alleged abuse.
“Volunteering is about listening through the problem, trying to determine if it’s true and correcting the issue on a local level,” Meyers said.
She said most nursing home and residential care owners are very receptive to volunteers’ suggestions and are open to solutions.
Judy Brown, owner of Tahoe Manor Guest Home, said Meyers, who visits four South Shore facilities monthly, has been a lot of help to her center.
“The Ombudsman facility is good because it not only works with the residents but it can help the facility owners as well,” Brown said. “(The program) is really helpful because Kathryne Meyers is really attentive.”
Meyers said she’s hoping a community member from South Lake Tahoe will volunteer their time to visit the facilities on the hill, because she has to come up from Placerville.
Ruth Tomlin, an Ombudsman volunteer, said she just started with the program in March, because she saw how helpless her father felt for the five years he lived in a nursing home.
Tomlin said she has found the residents and workers at the nursing home and residential care facility she visits to be very helpful and open to her.
“Our presence there makes the staff aware that things should be taken care of properly,” Tomlin said. “So many of the (residents) are simply happy to have someone there.”
Tomlin said the experience has touched her as well as the people she helps, and she suggests other people get involved with the program.
“(Ombudsman) is a part of helping our elderly,” she said. “Maybe someday I’ll be in there and I will want someone to come through and help me.”
The El Dorado County Area Agency on Aging is seeking volunteers for the
Long Term Care Ombudsman Program to aid senior citizens in elderly care facilities.
For information call Kathryne Meyers at (530) 621-6157
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