Volunteer senior ombudsman programs are helping to ensure that nursing home patients receive care tailored to their needs, in San Diego County and across the state of California. According to a recent article in the Moorpark Acorn, these volunteer ombudsman programs in certain parts of the state might actually serving as a check for parts of the elder care industry that are not as attuned to the individual needs of patients. The article explores the specific volunteer senior ombudsman program in Ventura County that is currently overseen by the county’s Long Term Care Services. As of early 2017, the ombudsman program has advocated for the needs and rights of about 8,500 patients in Southern California’s assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, other facilities.
Could more ombudsman programs be a partial solution when it comes to preventing nursing home abuse and neglect?
What is an Ombudsman?
The first question you might be asking yourself is, “What is an ombudsman?” According to the Ombudsman Association (OA), an ombudsman is typically a person who can “provide protection for the individual where there is a substantial imbalance of power.” The OA website explains the different types of tasks that ombudsmen perform:
- Offering free-of-charge services for individuals;
- Providing services for individuals who cannot (or do not want to) take a case to court;
- Seeking redress for an individual when there are systemic failures;
- Undertaking investigations into allegations of abuse;
- Acting as neutral arbiters;
- Resolving disputes before formal investigations occur; and
- Seeking to right individual injustices.
Ombudsmen can work in many different sectors, but programs like the one in Ventura County have become common for seniors who may need individual attention in the nursing home setting.
Value of Volunteer Senior Ombudsmen Program
The volunteer senior ombudsman program in Ventura County started in 1981. One of the first and most significant jobs the program did—which it continues to do today—involves making “unannounced inspections at some of the 233 residential care facilities across the county.” The volunteers in the program have a detailed checklist that helps them to determine whether there may be signs of abuse or neglect, and they spend between two and three hours, on average, in each facility.
According to Sylvia Taylor-Stein, the executive director of Long Term Care Services of Ventura County, the volunteers observe many different facets of life in the facilities they visit: “They’re looking for hygiene . . . . They’re looking for safety, at the menus, at the quality of food, at activities . . . . They’re looking for any signs of distress or neglect or abuse, [and] for how long it takes that facility to answer a call line . . . . They’re checking bathrooms, kitchens [and] walking the halls and talking to all the residents.”
There is a federal Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program that is directed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and it assists states in setting up programs to address the individual needs of nursing home patients, but frequent visits are not required. The successes of the volunteer program in Ventura County suggest that other areas of the state, as well as of the country, could benefit from similar services.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer in San Diego County
If you have questions about filing a nursing home abuse claim, an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer in San Diego County can assist you. Contact the Walton Law Firm today for more information.
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