Oct 20

Volunteer Spotlight on the Ombudsman Program

photo of volunteer ombudsman in honor of Residents' Rights Month

October is Residents’ Rights Month , an annual event recognizing the respect, dignity, and rights to which all residents of long-term care facilities are entitled. Volunteer Ombudsmen listen to the concerns of residents and advocate to have their needs and wishes met. Today, we are shining the spotlight on Marian who has been a volunteer ombudsman for nearly 11 years.

Marian, what drew you to the role, what keeps you in it?

At age 75, my mother was declared legally blind. Between that time and the time she passed away at age 97, I retired and was increasingly involved with every aspect of her care. Then, too, the person I considered to be my “second mother” required significant support in her 90s. Once she, too, passed, I began looking for retirement activities that would be stimulating and worthwhile. I scoured lists of volunteer opportunities, but few of them resonated with me—until I came across a listing for a volunteer long-term care ombudsman opportunity. According to the description, this was right up my alley! The nominal commitment was two hours a week, there was accountability in the form of case reports, plus there was a monthly meeting with other ombudsman in the region. Importantly, too, the schedule for visits was completely flexible. I signed up, trained, and launched in to this new experience. And I haven’t looked back.

Over the course of more than 10 years at the same facility, I have come to know residents and staff and attempt to interact with them constructively. I have gained great respect for many of the nurses, aides, and other staff members who serve compromised individuals tirelessly. The resident population of my facility is extremely diverse. Their life experiences could not be more different. I have encountered residents with significant mental illness and formerly homeless residents. Residents’ coping mechanisms vary hugely. I am fascinated by the variety of human beings—from unspeakably difficult ones to dear and sweet people to whom life has dealt a cruel blow. There’s a whole world of humanity within my facility. It is utterly gratifying to attempt to do a little something to help the residents in my facility to overcome a few of the challenges that they face.

What advice would you give to new OMB volunteers?

Go with an open mind. Be a good listener. And always bear in mind that the nursing home that you get to leave after a short weekly visit is often the residents’ permanent home. You will likely get more out of being an ombudsman than you give, week to week.