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Advocacy program speaks up for seniors


Clint Branham Communica ons Specialist A


smile breaks across Peggy King’s face as she greets a visitor. For


the past two years, the 88-year-old former beau cian from Coff eyville, Kansas, has been a resident at Grand Lake Villa, a nursing center located in Grove, Oklahoma. Peggy is confi ned to a wheelchair and requires assistance. While her physical strength has diminished with age, her mind has not. Her wit is sharp and a posi ve outlook keeps her going strong.


Peggy’s visitor today is Ruth Lemaster, a volunteer who has been giving her  me to individuals like Peggy for more than eight years as an ombudsman for the Grand Gateway Area Agency on Aging. Ruth says seeing Peggy smile during their frequent visits is just about the most rewarding part of her work.


What exactly is an ombudsman, you ask?


Simply put, an ombudsman is an advocate for individuals residing in long-term care facili es, including nursing homes, assisted living situa ons and residen al care homes. A person serving as an ombudsman is available to listen to any concerns residents may have with staff , family or anyone else associated with their care at the facility. An ombudsman informs residents of their rights and is trained to solve many problems informally. They even support residents and families in solving their own problems. In short, an ombudsman helps ensure the quality of life and care available to the


residents.


Ruth and Peggy converse for several minutes. Peggy says she has been ea ng well and has enjoyed some recent good luck during a ernoon bingo. The two ladies discover they once had a common acquaintance from the Coff eyville area.


This is benefi cial  me for both ladies. Not only is the conversa on therapeu c for Peggy, it is also important for Ruth because she is able to also able to verify that Peggy is happy and receiving quality care. While it may appear to be two old friends reliving old  mes, there is much more to this exchange, according to Grand Gateway’s Lahona Young. She says these one-on- one conversa ons are an essen al component of the ombudsman program.


“The majority of residents who live in long-term care facili es receive no visitors,” explained Young, who has served as supervisor of Grand Gateway’s ombudsman program for the past 21 years. “Volunteers for the ombudsman program are so valuable because they are from the community and they visit residents weekly. They build a rapport and remind them they have not been forgo en. An ombudsman advocates for the rights and quality of life for these individuals.”


Ruth is, in fact, the longest-tenured ombudsman in a seven-county area served by Grand Gateway. The state of


July 2015 - 7


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