Ombudsman training on tap in McMinnville
Seniors sometimes need someone to advocate for their needs and hold their living facilities accountable. That's where an ombudsman steps in and for many in Newberg that person is Carol Hankins.
Hankins said one long-term care facility resident she spoke with a few months back described an ombudsman as someone who "goes to bat" for seniors. She liked that description.
"We focus on doing things that will improve or maintain a person's quality of life," she said. "Sometimes people think that you only call an ombudsman if you're upset or frustrated about something that's happening at a facility, but it goes beyond that. If people are having challenges with getting disability or medical equipment, we help them out too."
Hankins lives in Newberg and is responsible for volunteer ombudsman that work here and in McMinnville. Five trainings for those interested in becoming an ombudsman are scheduled for Sept. 10, 11, 17, 18 and 20 in the McMinnville area.
Ombudsmen are critical resources for seniors and Hankins said there plainly aren't enough of them in Oregon – particularly in Yamhill County. She is responsible for helping folks at nine facilities in Newberg alone, including adult foster care, assisted living, memory care and nursing home facilities.
"There are numerous communities in Newberg that do not have an assigned ombudsman," Hankins said. "There aren't enough certified ombudsman assigned to everyone and under ideal conditions a certified ombudsman would have one or two facilities to which they are assigned. Because there's such a shortage, I have nine, so we desperately need more certified ombudsmen."
More ombudsmen will allow Hankins and others to focus on individual facilities and not spread their resources so thin. The Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman organization is a government entity based out of Salem that helps seniors throughout the state; it doesn't take long to get certified and out in the field.
The training will focus on the rules and regulations of the facilities served and plenty of written material will be provided. Hankins emphasized that those attending don't have to learn everything at the training sessions in order to become an effective ombudsman – they just need the willingness to help out seniors who don't often have the means to help themselves.
"We can also be a good resource for people who don't know about resources in their communities," she said.
Hankins has been an ombudsman for many years and was initially inspired to do so by the death of her mother in a memory care facility. She said the stories she hears from people – and seeing the situations they may find themselves in – motivates her to keep going and do necessary volunteer work.
"When I go and meet with residents in person, they feel like someone really cares," she said. "A couple weeks ago I got a voicemail from a resident who left a really long message and at the end she said, 'thanks for listening.' It just really touched my heart because she had the confidence that I'd listen and care."
For more information on the upcoming training and how to become an ombudsman, call the local office at 503-378-6303. If you are a senior in need of an ombudsman, call the statewide organization's toll-free number at 800-522-2602 or Hankins at 503-729-0015.
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