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Our View: Ombudsmen hear the call to help seniors

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How to get involved
Ombudsman Services of Northern California
Training sessions information – (916) 375-3314 or

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It can be an emotional time when a loved one enters a care a facility – either by choice or necessity.
Moving into that new environment with an unfamiliar group of people and a new way of life can be a stressful and tumultuous experience. And navigating the day-to-day, from living in a communal setting to interacting with new personalities, can cause some to be overwhelmed and feel lost in the shuffle.
Thankfully there are those out there willing to volunteer their time to make sure that no one loses their way and ensure that their voice is heard.
Ombudsman Services of Northern California fills that role and does it admirably, and we support their latest effort to seek more volunteers to give a hand to those who need it.
In Placer County alone there are 242 facilities, from residential care to skilled nursing homes, and currently there are only 10 ombudsmen to cover them all.
This number is far too low.
The program, a project of Legal Services of Northern California, does everything from settle disputes among roommates to address complaints about the food. But these volunteers also look into any possible abuses as well – something we hear about all too often.
The most admirable trait of the program is the no-nonsense approach of the ombudsmen who make it clear that they are there to serve the client in need, and they don’t go into a situation with any type of chip on their shoulder.
“We can’t have people who are angry at nursing rooms – or too sympathetic,” Regional Ombudsman Geneva Carroll told the Journal recently. “Our advocacy is for our clients – the residents.”
For those of you who are thinking this might be something you might like to be a party to, don’t think you can just show up and say, “I want to be an ombudsman.” Ombudsman Services of Northern California puts those interested in advocating on behalf of seniors through training three days a week, and follows that up with a 20-hour internship program before volunteers are certified by the state to go into care facilities. On top of that, you need to be flexible with your time and willing to volunteer 10 hours per week – and they want a two-year commitment.
While the group admits many of the cases it handles are benign, it can’t be stressed enough how important a program like this can be for a population that at the minimum can feel marginalized, or at the worst, be abused.
Auburn alone has 49 care facilities and five nursing homes, that’s a lot folks that would sure benefit from this free and confidential service to them and their families.
If you think you have what it takes — and the time — they’re waiting for you to stop by and hear them out.