By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The welfare of Enid area nursing home residents is overseen by a network of ombudsmen who visit the homes and work to resolve problems.
A training session for potential ombudsman volunteers is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Northern Oklahoma Development Authority office, 2901 N. Van Buren. Ombudsman supervisors Julie Torson and David Huff will teach the course.
“We’re looking for ombudsmen to go into the nursing homes and to visit with the elderly to help resolve complaints and problems they may have with the nursing home,” Torson said.
The training involves nursing home regulations, residents’ rights and other issues regarding the elderly, she said. The ombudsman goes into facilities and advocates for the residents and makes sure their rights are not being violated. “They have the right to eat what they want and do what they want and have choices,” Torson said. “They don’t have to be mistreated.”
NODA covers Alfalfa, Grant, Noble, Kay, Blaine, Kingfisher, Major and Garfield counties. Torson hopes to find volunteers from each of those areas so the volunteer does not have to travel far from home. They must volunteer a minimum of two hours each week to visit the nursing home.
“There is no obligation to volunteer by attending the workshop. Just see what the nursing home does, then decide if it’s the type of thing you want to do or not,” Torson said. “If an individual is willing to commit to visiting residents for two hours per week and willing to come to a monthly meeting, then they can be certified to become an ombudsman.”
Characteristics for the job are reliability, tact, resourcefulness, perseverance and a sense of humor, she said. It also is important to be a good listener, because many times, seniors just want to talk.
NODA is required by the state to conduct quarterly training. Torson said sometimes volunteers stay, and sometimes they do not.
“It may be the kind of thing they can’t commit to. We lose people sometimes. It may be the kind of thing they can’t commit to,” she said. NODA has lost seven ombudsman volunteers in the past year, so new ones are needed.
The job is somewhat stressful, but also is very rewarding, she said. Major problems are reported to a supervisor; the volunteer does not have to resolve those. Volunteers usually work on lost items, roommate problems, food complaints — the ordinary day-to-day concerns.
“The bigger concerns are turned over to the supervisors, but while they are there, they may see something that doesn’t seem right, and they can report that,” Torson said.
Each volunteer is assigned to one nursing home, and NODA supervisors try to keep it close to the volunteer’s home. A volunteer from Fairview would not have to go to a nursing home in Perry, for example.
The ombudsman program was started in 1972 when an aide of President Richard Nixon had a loved one in a nursing home. The nursing home turned out to be poorly operated and not a good home, and the aide’s experience was bad. He told the president of the condition of the nursing home and a committee was assigned to study the nation’s nursing homes. Nursing home reforms were passed in 1978 and again in the 1980s.
“The federal government found the need and turned it over to the state to operate it. Each state runs theirs differently. NODA is the long-term care representative for the state in northern Oklahoma,” Torson said.
Torson may be reached at (580) 237-2236.
“The volunteers are needed because many nursing home residents do not have many visitors or someone to speak up for them,” she said.