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Our Ombudsman left us.  (“Us” are the residents of the ALF I live in.)  She resigned because, in addition to serving as our ALF’s Ombudsman, she had a “day job,”  the job she held to earn a living. You see, working for us aged and disabled is a voluntary activity.  It’s a choice a citizen makes to help the vulnerable in our communities.

The Ombudsman advocates for us; we who live our lives out in Long Term Care  or LTC.  (If you’ve followed my blogs, you must be on a first name basis with the acronyms of the Health Care Industry or HCI – I   just made that one up.)

When the Ombudsman was female, I’ve used the word, Ombudswoman, since that appellation was appropriate. I  tried to be politically correct and twist the word into Ombudsperson. But aside from the sometimes used, Ombuds, the male form of the noun is socially correct and preferred.

The word, Ombudsman, derives from the Scandinavian language.  Essentially, an Ombudsman is a Public Advocate who investigates malpractice in public institutions. The word has specific meaning for American elders and the disabled.  The Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965, proposed by then President, Lyndon Johnson, and reapproved several times by Congress through Barack Obama’s presidency in 2016, mandated that the Governor of each state appoint an Ombudsman to investigate and resolve complaints by residents of LTC – I assume you know what the letters stand for.

The overriding role of the State Ombudsman, the professional staff, and the volunteers is to “enhance the quality of life and improve the quality of care” of us – the elders and disabled who must live here in an ALF and elsewhere – nursing homes, adult foster homes, residential care facilities, et. al.

In my state, in addition to the State Ombudsman, there are seven Deputy Ombudsmen three administrative staff and about one hundred ninety (190) volunteers.

If  memory serves me right, during the eleven years I’ve been privileged to be confined in my ALF, I  have known two of the four Ombudsmen assigned to my ALF. I  had job related as well as social conversations with them, and  have been helped by all four of these volunteers.  Two of the volunteers were women I knew previous to our ombudsmen relationship from our time together at a nearby university.  The volunteer time they contributed to the residents of our ALF, were years of conflict, tension, and hostile Administrator/staff relations, which, of course, affected the residents.  I happened to be President of the Residents Council, and became a lightning rod for the enmity in the air – which our Ombudsman was also struck by.  She retired because of emotional fatigue.

When I was unfairly disparaged and my person sullied by a hostile Administrator – she didn’t like these blogs – both the residence volunteer Ombudsman and a professional staff attorney from the State Ombudsman office interceded for me. The professional staff person prepared a letter refuting the Administrator’s narrative, and both the volunteer and the professional Ombudsmen attended my quarterly Service Plan meeting (a mandate of the OAA) – a lot to ask from a volunteer.

I have had the privilege of addressing my and a nearby State ombudsman annual conventions. I met first-hand the volunteers and learned of the variety of life occupations – and non-occupations – they came from.  I spoke also at an annual meeting of a non-profit advocacy organization in the nation’s capitol, to which professional Ombudsmen from every state came.  To meet those whose professional lives were devoted to people like me – old and disabled – and to also meet working and retired volunteers, was truly a humbling experience.

And I had been invited to speak at an Ombudsman convention this Fall. The appearance had to be cancelled – no money for travel costs.  (I never charge a speaking fee.)

Sparse budgets are common in Ombudsman offices.

States need to ante up so that life will be made bearable for you when you age or become disabled, and require the assistance of an Ombudsman. Life is not wonderful – contrary to the movie title – in Long Term Care, and you will need help.

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