Amity Overall-Laib of the National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) speaks up about how to find resources to help improve the quality of life in long term care facilities for the elderly and what you can do to help.
Today Sevenponds speaks with Amity Overall-Laib, a representative of the National Long Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC) in Washington DC. Throughout her career she has championed the practice of individualized care and of cultural change for elderly residents living in long term care facilities. In this interview she will be drawing from her current experience at NORC as well as her previous six years of experience as a long term care ombudsman in Texas.
Photo Credit: http://nalltco.org/meetboard.html
Kimberly: What is an ombudsman?
Amity: A long-term care ombudsman is an advocate for a resident in a long term care facility or an assisted living facility. In some states, long-term care ombudsman programs also provide advocacy to individuals who live in their own home and receieve individual home care services, but that’s a rather new expansion of the ombudsman responsibilities.
Kimberly: From your time as a long-term care ombudsman, were there many common concerns and complaints that you had to deal with?
Amity: Yes, absolutely. I find it interesting that even though I was a local ombudsman for six years, the main issues that I addressed many years ago are still the top concerns today. Looking at the data from the last five to six years, I found it interesting that ombudsman still report the same top complaints annually for nursing homes. For example, according to the National Ombudsman Reporting System (NORS) in 2012, the top three nursing home complaints were related to inappropriate discharge, failure to respond to calls for requests (call lights), and not being treated with dignity and respect by staff.
The hot concerns and complaints usually go back to the core issues: insufficient staff or lack of staff training, which causes a lack of person-centered and individualized care. Additionally, according to NORS in 2012, other common complaints of assisted living were related to the administration of medication, quality of food and general food service.
Kimberly: What are your primary responsibilities at NORC?
Amity: The primary responsibility of NORC is to provide training and technical assistance for local and state ombudsmen across the country. We create resources and training materials. For example, we recently published a brief about resident rights in the LGBT community highlighting specific resident rights that may be of particular interest to LGBT residents in nursing homes. We respond to technical assistance requests from local and state ombudsman. The type of technical assistance requests that I respond to right now are primarily about volunteer management since a majority of ombudsman programs across the country utilize volunteer ombudsman. We also focus on abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Kimberly: Are there any projects that volunteers could get involved with who work in long-term care right now?
Amity: There are a lot of ways, specifically about projects with Consumer Voice. The Consumer Voice is a national advocacy organization that is always looking for people to get involved. If individuals are interested in advocacy related to long-term care, they can go to their website at www.theconsumervoice.org, join the action network and sign up for action alert so that they will know if there are any legislation or regulation changes related to long-term care that they can take action on. The consumer voice offers a wealth of information for individuals, whether or not they’re looking for a facility. You need to know what to consider when you are looking for a facility, for family members and for individuals and consumers who are already receiving long term care.
English: The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Consumer Voice also hosts focus groups for nursing home residents, assisted living residents and home care consumers. The focus groups are made up of conference calls held periodically throughout the year to gather input regarding the residents’ and consumers’ perspectives on how to improve long-term care. Family members can promote these focus groups to their loved ones or to home care consumers in order to get them involved. That way, we can hear directly from their voices and from their perspectives.
The next focus group that is happening is a Home Care Consumer Focus Group that will be held on Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 from 3:00-4:00pm EST. If you are interested in joining either focus group you can contact Sara Cirba at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 202-332-2275 x 221 or toll-free at 866-992-3668.
If someone wants to volunteer directly, they can always volunteer as an ombudsman at www.ltcombudsman.org, where you can locate your local ombudsman program and get in touch with them about volunteering. I also encourage people who don’t want to volunteer as an ombudsman to get involved by visiting residents at a long-term care facility in order to make that connection between the facility and the community.
Kimberly: What advice would you like to impart upon families considering placing a relative in long-term care?
Amity: Make sure that you and your family member—the individual who is going to be moving into the facility—understands their rights and the responsibilities of the facility as best as possible. Be involved and engaged in your loved one’s care. Visit often. Get to know the staff and get to know other families. Make sure the staff knows your
Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nursing_home.JPG
family member’s history, current preferences, goals, and needs in order to provide individualized care. As a family member, make sure to support your loved one’s rights and preferences. Encourage them to be involved in their own care as much as they can be and as much as they want to be, and of course advocate on their behalf if they cannot speak for themselves.
Kimberly: Any advice for people who are entering into long-term care?
Amity: Make sure you know your rights and the responsibilities of the facility. Be involved in your own care as much as possible. Make sure your voice is heard and respected. Advocate for yourself, or make sure you can find someone who can support you in your advocacy efforts or who can advocate on your behalf. If a resident does not have a family member that they can turn to for support, then I encourage them to definitely contact our local ombudsman program. Even if they don’t want the ombudsman to advocate on their behalf, the ombudsman can provide them with information and resources about their rights and give some tips about effective complaint resolution and communication.
Kimberley: Thank you, Amity!
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