Volunteers sought for Ombudsman Program

Mar 31, 2015
The following article appeared in the April edition of The Best Times, a monthly magazine published by Johnson County for resident age 60 plus. 

Moving into a nursing home or an assisted living facility can create anxiety and challenges for both seniors and their families. Many times they are unsure about who to turn to with questions or concerns. That’s when the Kansas Long-term Care Ombudsman can help. The mission of the Ombudsman Program is to advocate for the well-being, safety, and rights of long-term care residents by assisting them in attaining the highest possible quality of life. In short, ombudsmen help to ensure that residents receive the care they want while being treated with the dignity they deserve. Certified ombudsmen volunteers are the heart of the program. An ombudsman is a person who investigates complaints and helps to achieve equitable settlements. They work as fact finders, educators, problem solvers, and mediators. Ombudsman volunteers are trained to investigate complaints and concerns objectively and to achieve equitable solutions. Certified ombudsmen have legislative authority to visit facilities and meet with the residents in confidence, identifying concerns and helping to resolve them. Weekly visits to their assigned nursing facility give residents the opportunity to get to know their ombudsman and to develop a trusting relationship. Regional Ombudsman Phylis Toumberlin oversees the Ombudsman Program for Johnson, Wyandotte, and Miami counties. She is responsible for providing the training and oversight for the region, which currently has 35 active certified ombudsmen. Long-term care facilities served by ombudsman include skilled nursing homes, adult day care homes, home plus, assisted living and long term care settings in hospitals. Currently, there are 113 long-term care facilities in the region, 91 of those are located in Johnson County. The office of the Kansas Long Term Care Ombudsman is seeking additional volunteers to advocate for residents in long term care settings in Johnson County. “We are looking for volunteers who exhibit compassion, respect for elders, and have good listening skills,” Toumberlin said. A prospective ombudsman will receive 30 hours of initial certification training. It includes 18 hours of class room work, two on-site visits supervised by regional ombudsman, and a mini-internship. Upon completion of training and background check, volunteers become certified ombudsman and are assigned to a long-term care facility near them. Registration for classes is underway. The training begins in late April. For more information on volunteering, questions about the program, or if you are in need of ombudsman assistance, contact the state office at 1-877-662-8362 or contact Toumberlin at 913-236-9385, or visit www.kansasombudsmanksgov.com to request an information packet.