Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 18
Advocates for the elderly
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
Joyce Lippman, executive director for the Central Coast Commission for Senior Citizens/Area Agency on Aging, said there are 152 senior living homes in Santa Barbara County, and 70 in North County alone.
With a long list of facilities to monitor, it’s no wonder the commission is asking for more volunteers for its Long-Term Care Ombudsman Service of Santa Barbara County.
Ombudsman, which means “advocate” in Swedish, is a service that has been used in Santa Barbara County since the 1970s, according to Lippman.
“The ombudsman service is part of a nationwide program to protect the rights of senior citizens living in care homes,” she said.
Currently, the program has seven volunteers and two who are completing their training. Lippman said they hope to gain 30 volunteers.
“Our goal is to have a volunteer cover only three or four care homes,” Lippman said.
According to the commission, 40 hours of extensive training and an internship are required to become an ombudsman volunteer. Lippman said the volunteers learn the rights of the patients, the rules and regulations of governance, and how to monitor safety, health, and nutrition in care homes.
The concept Lippman said they make very clear to volunteers is that they’re not state inspectors or police; they are there only to ensure the safety and health of the residents.
After completing the necessary training and internship, volunteers are asked to donate two to three hours a week to visit their assigned homes. The ombudsman visits the facility, makes introductions, and converses with the residents to see how they’re doing and if they have any complaints. Volunteers are regularly monitored and guided by the staff.
“Many of the residents have no family or friends; a majority are alone with no one to help them,” Lippman said.
Volunteers are also expected to attend monthly review meetings, as well as a two-hour training session every month. Good volunteers would be those who are great at getting to know people, comfortable with elderly people, and compassionate.
Since the state has had to make cutbacks, complaints from resident homes are addressed slowly. Lippman said that makes the role of ombudsman that much more significant.
“This is a commitment,” she said. “You have to love this; you get to make a difference in people’s lives.”
For information on how to become a volunteer, call 922-1236.
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell composed this week’s Community Corner. Contact her at email@example.com.
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