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The News of Sun City Center


April 2008 / Issue #143

Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a volunteer based organization working to improve the quality of life of those living in long-term-care settings including nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and adult family-care homes. The program operates under the authority of federal and state law.

Unfortunately, living in a retirement community doesn’t provide immunity from troubles that arise when dealing with nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. Dr. Karen Hosack-Curlin had her parents’ best interests at heart when she suggested they move to Sun City Center a few years ago. Her father’s health was failing, and she felt that having local assisted-living facilities and nursing homes would make it easier on her parents when the time came. Anxiety and Hardship.

What Dr. Curlin found is that nursing homes can deny service with a vague reason of being “unable to meet the patient’s needs.” She also saw her dad denied reentry into a nursing home after spending just a few hours away for a hospital visit; he was then moved to a facility that caused a travel hardship on her mother. “I really want to help others so they don’t have to go through the frustration and anxiety that we did with last-minute switches and unnecessary moves,” Curlin says.

Only after her father’s passing did Dr. Curlin learn that the assistance she sought was available from Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which is administered by the Department of Elder Affairs.

“Please be aware there is help out here,” says Diane Carpenter, Coordinator of West Central Florida Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. “If you have followed all the rules at the facility regarding trying to get resolution for a problem and are still dissatisfied with the results, then call us,” she adds.

On Your Side      

An ombudsman is a trained and certified volunteer, who has authority under Florida law to identify, investigate and resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, long-term care facility residents. Volunteers in the program often provide a voice for those who may not be able to speak up for themselves. Services are provided at no charge, and complaints are confidential.

The Ombudsman Program also offers guidelines when selecting a health-care facility. “Be careful—attractive hallways don’t always indicate good care. We can share information regarding the last assessment conducted at the facility and how many complaints have been verified in the facility within the past year,” Carpenter says. 

“Don’t believe that you do not have the same rights just because you are in a rehabilitation unit to get therapy for a short time prior to going home,” explains Carpenter. “If the rehab unit is part of a nursing home or assisted living facility they are still covered under the same laws and regulations.” 

The Ombudsman Program Serving Hillsborough County can be reached at (813) 558-5591 or on the web at http:// ombudsman.myflorida.com.