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Florida Times-Union

Sunday, June 8, 2008
Letters to the Editor

More volunteers are needed

The May 28 article titled "Watchdogs for the elderly" paid deserved tribute to the 15 First Coast volunteers in the Department of Elder Affairs' Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. I hope it will encourage additional volunteers to step forward.

Statewide, there are nearly 160,000 long-term care residents in more than 3,500 facilities, but only 400 ombudsmen. More volunteers are needed in every district, including the First Coast area.

Although Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs exist in every state, Florida's program is one of the largest.Florida's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program has 17 local councils throughout the state, each comprised of local volunteers who defend long-term care residents and help them understand their rights.

Last year, Florida's ombudsmen investigated more than 7,600 complaints and worked directly on behalf of 55,000 elders to protect their rights and improve the quality of their lives.

In the First Coast district, 15 ombudsmen conducted 425 investigations. The administration of medication was among residents' primary concerns, both in the First Coast and statewide.

The Department of Elder Affairs applauds the program's volunteers. Many are elders themselves. They dedicate countless hours and tremendous energy to their advocacy duties.

A majority of the program's volunteers have had personal experiences with loved ones who once lived in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.Volunteers from all walks of life are needed to protect vulnerable seniors.

Prospective volunteers can visit or call toll free (888) 831-0404 to apply.

Secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs, Tallahassee