State ombudsmen director: We need to advocate for those in nursing homes, assisted living, and memory care

COURTESY PHOTO - Certified Ombudsman volunteer Diana Allan uses an iPad to talk to a resident inside an Oregon long-term care facility.With vaccines for COVID-19 now being administered, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. However, Oregonians living in long-term care facilities continue to be isolated while having some of the highest rates of infection and deaths. And as we look to return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, there will be an increased need to ensure that quality of care and quality of life will be protected for fellow Oregonians living in long-term care.

Community volunteers throughout Oregon are needed to become Long Term Care Ombudsmen to advocate for those who live and receive care in nursing homes, assisted living, and memory care facilities. Oregon's Long Term Care Ombudsman program has continued to fight every day for residents' rights and dignity, and now needs over a hundred more volunteers across Oregon for the advocacy that is needed coming out of the pandemic.

Residents in care facilities frequently face impossible decisions regarding their care and quality of life. If they push their call button and no one comCOURTESY PHOTO - State Ombudsman Fred Steelees for 45 minutes, do they report the issue and possibly suffer retaliation? Do they take a deep breath and continue to wait, knowing this problem will continue to be an issue? Many residents also feel isolated and alone, especially now due to COVID-related limits on visitation with family and friends.

Residents living and receiving care in long-term care facilities have rights and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The pandemic has spotlighted the need for Long-Term Care Ombudsman services in a time when it is difficult to visit loved ones residing in long-term care. Unfortunately, only 49% of Oregon's facilities have a volunteer Ombudsman assigned to them. This leaves many residents especially vulnerable.

Oregonians who live in long-term care need community members to become their voice and advocate. The Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman is an independent state agency that was established to advocate for those who reside in long-term care, including nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, residential care facilities, adult foster care homes, and memory care settings. Perhaps you or someone you know might make an excellent Ombudsman! Our volunteers come from all different walks of life. Successful applicants need good communication and listening skills, the ability to work through conflicts, determination, tenacity, and a passion for helping people.

We have two upcoming online trainings scheduled for 2021: March 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18 and April 13, 15, 20, 22, 27, 29. The trainings are currently happening via Zoom, so a computer and a good internet connection are needed. If you are interested in attending the training, an application process must be completed. This includes submitting an application either online or by mail or fax, participating in an interview, having references checked and completing a criminal records check. Volunteers are expected to commit for at least a year after completing the training. Please consider helping some of your most vulnerable community members.

To report a concern at a long-term care facility, or to learn more about volunteering, call 1-800-522-2602, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit There is a deputy on duty available weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Fred Steele is director of Oregon's Long Term Care Ombudsman program. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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