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Ombudsmen provide voice for the elderly

By The Staff
Wednesday, June 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm
THE ISSUE: Protecting the elderly.
OUR OPINION: Volunteer ombudsmen do a great thing.


Currently, more than 400 volunteers serve as ombudsmen throughout the state as an arm of the Department of Elder Affairs. The trained volunteers stop by unannounced at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes serving the elderly.

The volunteers act as liaisons with the staff, advocating for the people who live there to ensure the quality of life is what it should be. Even more important, bonding takes place, and a friendly “hello” can go a long way.

It all began in 1975 as a result of the federal Older Americans Act, which established specific rights for residents in long-term care facilities. According to the Bill of Rights established by the act, no resident can be deprived of any rights, benefits or privileges guaranteed by state or federal law; including the right to present a grievance without the fear of retaliation. The program acts as a monitoring system for this constitutional law.

Ombudsmen volunteers are also on call to investigate and help resolve complaints called in by residents — many dealing with the quality of food, medication issues and general housekeeping and cleanliness of the facility.

Citrus County is part of a five-county network with 186 facilities served by 19 volunteer ombudsmen. We feel this group of special volunteers is an important component in protecting our precious seniors.

More often than not, the residents are older and exhibit traits that go hand-in-hand with this stage of life. Seniors are vulnerable and often can stop making good decisions, but they should not suffer because of this. Seniors need an outside person to speak up for them. Many have no family in the area and are pretty much on their own.

Knowing that at any time a volunteer could stop by keeps the facilities on the right path. When someone is watching there is less chance for abuse and neglect.

We praise the group of special people who call themselves “ombudsmen.” It is honorable and an unselfish act to give time to people in need.

We also encourage anyone with the interest in helping the elderly to call and volunteer for the program. To learn more about the ombudsman program call (888) 831-0404 or go online to http://ombudsman.myflorida.com. To volunteer, call Helen Anderson at (352) 620-3088.

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