It just might surprise you to know that some seniors and the elderly do not always have close friends even when they are surrounded by others like themselves in a care facility. If they have no close friends or family, they have no one to advocate for them. This means they often need a voice to make their needs heard.
The Ombudsman program in Arkansas allows members of the community to step in as this voice for the betterment of those without one. Ombudsman ensure residents are valued as equal members of the community.
What is an Ombudsman?
Our Ombudsman worker assists Area Agencies on Aging by going into nursing homes or other long-term care facilities as representatives for elders and those under the facility’s care. They don't actually work there because they have to be unbiased, but they are able to act as a go-between for residents and staff, bringing their attention to any concerns raised during their visit. As problem solvers, they help maintain a peaceful living environment for residents.
Typically, our ombudsman will visit his or her assigned facility on a weekly basis. In addition to looking into issues and problems, he or she will spend time with the residents getting to know them and learning about their lives. Many of our volunteers say this is the most rewarding part of volunteering.
The types of an Ombudsman can vary depending on their position and training. There are some in the position of regional Ombudsman. These are employees of the state or a contracted entity and personnel management that have been provided by the SLTCO. Regional ombudsman may be housed in offices across the state or in the central state office but are assigned cases and regions by the SLTCO based on statewide program needs.
Another type of ombudsman is a member of the community. SLTCOP uses unpaid staff in a state or regional program to assist in performing the activities as well as fulfilling the responsibilities of the program. These individuals are members of the community who volunteer their services and time to help assist in the program.
Generally, a member of the Ombudsman program in Arkansas will be expected to speak with and listen carefully to residents, and ask them questions to ensure they are being taken care of and having their needs met. They will also be expected to:
- Inform residents of their rights at both the local and federal levels, educate them on self-advocacy, and ensure they have the tools to do so.
- Get to know the residents and their lives. Building positive and lasting relationships with residents will make them better advocates. Connecting with your residents helps you better understand their needs.
- Assist residents in solving and mediating issues between other residents or staff. This can be acting as an intermediary in personal conflict or filing official complaints on behalf of the resident.
- Investigate complaints made by residents or family members to a resolution that is satisfactory for the resident. This may include speaking to other residents or looking into more serious grievances, and possibly legal intervention. Protecting the rights of residents is the key concern.
- Follow through on solutions with referrals or other measures. This will ensure residents’ issues are taken seriously and resolved in a careful, timely, and thorough manner.
- Report conditions of facilities to the regional Ombudsman, as well as any grievances that cannot be resolved within the facility itself.
Above all, advocate for residents and their safety, comfort, and right to quality care and living.
Who Uses Ombudsman Services?
The Ombudsman program in Arkansas is an incredible resource for many. An Ombudsman may be contacted by the family of a resident, the community, the facility’s staff, or the resident themselves. People often contact them when they:
- have concerns about their resident’s treatment within a care facility.
- need information about seniors’ rights within a facility, or for further information on a facility.
- are looking for further information about medical coverage or questions about the Ombudsman program itself
Becoming an Ombudsman in Arkansas
Becoming a volunteer Ombudsman is a generous and fulfilling pursuit that will allow you to act as both an advocate and a bright spot in the days of many of your community’s seniors. Volunteer training is provided by the office of the LTC
In Arkansas, you may become part of the Ombudsman program if you are 18 years of age or over and are not related to any residents or staff of the facility you are assigned. Apart from that, an open heart and strong compassion for your community’s seniors are your best tools for the job. Good communication skills and a warm disposition are also crucial for bonding with your residents.
Training may vary slightly depending on the region. Your Area Agency on Aging will lead you in the right direction. Your agency will provide you with all the training you need, including:
- Classroom training, Field Activities, & Homework (approx. 40 hours).
- Nursing home practicum (within 6 months of certification training).
- In-service training sessions quarterly, as well as an optional but highly beneficial yearly state-sponsored quarterly training program.
In total, your training process for the Ombudsman program in Arkansas will be about two days, apart from your quarterly training sessions. A short time spent learning how to confidently care for your community’s seniors more actively, as well as build long-lasting and close relationships, will help brighten both your life and theirs.
Volunteering as part of the Ombudsman program in Arkansas offers various long-term benefits for both the residents and yourself.
- You are helping your community and actively improving it through your service to your area’s elderly.
- By getting to know your residents, you form close bonds that will brighten your days every time you visit. Many seniors without close friends or family can become lonely, so your consistent and friendly visits will be beneficial.
- You may find fulfillment in serving and protecting the most vulnerable in your community in a hands-on and active way.
- Through your work, you will hone your problem-solving skills and better understand the senior care system in a way that may help your own future.
If you are interested in serving as part of the Ombudsman program here in Arkansas or simply have further questions, contact us here at any time. At the Arkansas Association of Area Agencies on Aging, we aim to help Arkansas’s aging population lead better, more independent lives.