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PRESS RELEASE
December 20, 2010  

DOEA News Release

CONTACT:
Brian Lee
  850-414-2323
ltcopinformer@elderaffairs.org

Advocates for Nursing Home Residents
Recommend Improvements in Long-Term Care

TALLAHASSEE – Recommendations for positive changes to Florida’s long-term care system and record-high numbers of complaints made by or on behalf of people who live in long-term care facilities were published in a report released today by Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

The only organization of its kind in the state, the Ombudsman Program trains volunteers to advocate for people living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes. The program, administered by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, is mandated to publish a yearly report to summarize its successes and make recommendations that will improve conditions for residents.

“Volunteer ombudsmen investigated more complaints this year than they have ever investigated in the 35-year history of the program, a total of 9,098 complaints,” said Elder Affairs Interim Secretary Charles T. Corley. “It reflects the dedication of these volunteers who give up their time every day to make life better for residents who cannot stand up for themselves.”

In addition to record-high numbers of complaint investigations, volunteer and staff ombudsmen also completed 100 percent of the program’s prescribed facility assessments. Ombudsmen visit every long-term care facility in the state at least once each year to listen to residents’ concerns in an effort to fix problems to the residents’ satisfaction. Other reported data included results from a recent resident satisfaction survey. Among those who responded to that survey, 98 percent of residents and their loved ones reported being satisfied with the way ombudsmen handled their concerns, 91 percent were satisfied with the time it took to handle the concerns and 95 percent reported being satisfied with the amount of contact they had with the ombudsmen who investigated their concerns.

“I’m proud to serve a program that relies almost entirely on the dedication of volunteers,” said Brian Lee, the Ombudsman program’s director. “Complaint investigations rose and all administrative facility assessments were completed despite there being fewer volunteers than in recent years.”

The report released today draws attention to the decline in volunteers, from more than 400 active volunteers last reporting year to just under 380 this year. The slow-paced economy has forced a number of individuals to return to full-time employment, according to Lee.

“We certainly need more volunteers to advocate for residents, to make sure they’re getting the quality of care and life they deserve,” said Lee. “As 2010 draws to a close, I encourage anyone who has even considered volunteering in the new year to look into becoming an ombudsman. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have. Ombudsmen have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people every day.”

With the call for volunteers and the release of its annual report, the Ombudsman Program encourages consumers, providers and lawmakers to be more aware of the most common deficiencies in long-term care facilities and to work to improve the quality of life for Florida’s most vulnerable and treasured population.

For more information about the Ombudsman Program, to learn more about becoming a volunteer or to receive a free copy of this year’s Ombudsman Annual Report, call toll-free 1-888-831-0404 or write to: Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, Suite 280, 4040 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee, FL 32399-7000. The report is also available for viewing and printing online at http://ombudsman.myflorida.com.

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