Wanted: More people to watch over Placer County's long-term-care facilities
With 242 facilities to watch over, the long-term-care ombudsman service in Placer County is putting out a new call for volunteers to investigate and resolve complaints on behalf of residents.
But the program – a project of Legal Services of Northern California – is looking for the right type of advocate.
While the number of volunteers and partly paid employees in Placer County with Ombudsman Services of Northern California is relatively small – there are currently 10 – Regional Ombudsman Geneva Carroll said that the work requires people who are willing to clearly see the issue in front of them and who the program is representing.
“We can’t have people who are angry at nursing rooms – or too sympathetic,” Carroll said. “Our advocacy is for our clients – the residents.”
The program is about to open a new round of training in West Sacramento, starting April 15 and lasting through early May. There are training sessions three days a week and then a 20-hour internship before volunteers are certified by the state to go into care facilities as ombudsman.
The confidential service is provided to residents, their families and friends, free of charge. Mandated by the state and federal government, the program is tasked with receiving, investigating and resolving complaints on behalf of residents in skilled nursing facilities and residential care facilities for the elderly.
The ombudsman program is now dealing with a spike in the number of care homes in the area. Carroll said that when she was working with Rocklin’s care homes 12 years ago, there were just six and could be inspected in a morning. The most recent state statistics show 25 facilities.
Roseville has 102 residential care and adult residential care facilities, as well as five skilled nursing homes. Auburn has 49 care facilities and five nursing homes. Lincoln is home to 17 residential care locations and a single skilled nursing home.
At Rock Creek Care Center, an 84-bed facility off Racetrack Drive, 90-year-old Betty Smith said she notices when an ombudsman visits, and genuinely appreciates the extra level of attention.
“It’s kind of nice to know someone wants to see how everyone is doing,” Smith said.
Sharon Stanners, an ombudsman in Placer County, said that volunteers need to be flexible with their hours and that the program is asking for a minimum of 10 hours of time a week. Because of the investment in training and time, the program is also asking for a two-year commitment from volunteers.
Stanners, a former Placer School for Adults teacher, has been an ombudsman for three years.
“Sometimes, the reports we get sound off the wall but could end up to be serious abuse cases,” Stanners said.
Ombudsman can look into suspected abuse cases but report any potential crime to law enforcement. The service also reports nursing home breaches to appropriate regulatory agencies.
A majority of the cases handled by the ombudsman are relatively benign, including complaints about food and conflicts with roommates, Carroll said.
Brandon Burkinshaw, administrator at Rock Creek Care Center, described the ombudsman service as a good program. An ombudsman visits about once a month, he said.
“They’re here for the residents and they advocate for them,” Burkinshaw said. “It’s not what you could call a partnership with us – it’s a separate entity truly for residents. But we invite their visits and welcome them.”
Carroll, a Lincoln resident, said that she signed on as a volunteer because she wanted to make a difference in the lives of people who live at care facilities. After 12 years, Carroll said she still is surprised to see new “twists” to her visits.
“It has made me laugh,” Carroll said. “It has made me cry. But it has always made me feel good. We have the hand out and many of the people we reach are feeling all alone.”
More information at:
Ombudsman Services of Northern California
Training sessions information – (916)375-3314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.