Aug 23

Ombudsman Program – Representing the people

An Ombudsman is a trained volunteer who informs people living in rest homes and nursing homes about their rights, and works to improve the quality of care that residents receive. At Springwell, the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program supports each of the 23 long-term care facilities in our coverage towns of Belmont, Brookline, Needham, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Wellesley, and Weston.

Each Ombudsman meets residents, builds rapport and acts as an advocate at the direction of the resident, notes Laura Vanderhill, Associate Director of Community Services at Springwell. Lisa Palais, Ombudsman Program Manager, adds that volunteers offer to listen to residents who may have concerns about anything related to their care, whether they are in long-term care or are there for a short-term stay.

Before ever visiting a facility, an Ombudsman is certified upon successful completion of three full days of training provided by the State Ombudsman office at the Executive Office of Elder Affairs in Massachusetts, and 10 hours of on-site training. Additionally, Ombudsmen attend monthly meetings for updates and participate in 24 hours of continuing education each year. Their education includes topics such as infection control, safety training, dementia training and how to best meet the needs of LGBTQ residents.

Springwell Ombudsmen try to visit each of their assigned homes weekly. The volunteer Ombudsmen introduce themselves to the residents and some residents may choose to share concerns with the volunteer. With resident’s consent, the volunteer will look into the issue and follow-up with the facility as needed.For example, one resident recently asked their Ombudsman to help facilitate getting assistance with dressing earlier in the morning than the current schedule. One Ombudsman shares that a resident she visits often says, “You are the only one I can talk to about this.” Another Ombudsman sums up the importance of her role as “listening and validating people.”

After stopping by the August Ombudsmen meeting, it was clear that this is a very devoted, caring group of volunteers. They enthusiastically explained why their work is important to them:

“I get satisfaction from my relationship with the residents. The smiles from the residents let me know they are happy to see me.”

“To help someone makes us feel good.”

“I love helping the people.”

“The relationships with the people are part of my life. I love the diversity and range of human beings and their experiences.”

Currently, the Ombudsman program is actively seeking new volunteers to visit with a growing population of residents who would like to talk with someone. If you would like to make a difference as an Ombudsman, please contact Lisa Palais at to learn more and apply for the upcoming training.