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Oklahoma is divided into eleven such areas. Grand Gateway is designated as “Area 1” and covers Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Nowata, O awa, Rogers and Washington coun es.


In northeast Oklahoma alone, there are approximately 3,850 beds available to residents in 70 long-term care facili es. Sixty percent of Oklahoma residents who live in long-term care facili es have no visitors so volunteers like Ruth are needed in every county. However, good help is not easy to fi nd.


Ruth lives in Grove and is assigned to Grand Lake Villa. She visits the facility at least once per week and spends no less than two hours each visit.


“Ruth is a dedicated volunteer,” said Young. “She is always willing to go visit when needed and she never gives up trying to resolve a concern for a resident. She works well with residents, families and staff in resolving ma ers by listening to everyone and staying objec ve. The most important part is speaking on behalf of the resident. As a supervisor, I always enjoy going with Ruth to visit with the residents. The smiles I see and the stories I hear are truly inspiring.”


Each volunteer is cer fi ed to visit residents in one facility for at least two hours per week. There are currently 12 volunteers and two supervisors—including Young and Elaine Evans—working in the seven-county area represented by Grand Gateway.


Ruth knows she is where she is supposed to be when she sees a smile.


“It is rewarding,” she said. “I’ve always said that if I can go in there and get one smile, then that just makes my day. Each individual you work with is unique and you learn how best to communicate with them as you go. You want to be able to give them the confi dence to talk to you. I just try and get them to open up and visit. They usually like to talk about their childhood and their kids so you just listen to them. That’s what they need is someone to listen.”


Having a good working rela onship with facility staff ers is also important, Ruth said. At Grand Lake Villa, she said April Hayes, Director of Nursing, makes her job easy.


“I have good people to work with,” said Ruth. “You can go to them with a problem and they do their best to try and solve them. It’s a good rela onship which makes it a lot easier. Most of the  me, everybody works together well and it’s just a pleasure to go visit with them. Of course, there are going to be  mes when they don’t like certain things or care for a meal, but you and I don’t always like everything either.”


The ombudsman program has existed locally since 1979 and is one of a number administered by Grand Gateway. Funding comes from the Older Americans Act, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and local sources. For more informa on on the program or to inquire about volunteerism opportuni es, call 1-800-482-4594 or visit www.grandgateway.org. 


8 - NE Connection


Lahona Young (le to right), Ruth Lemaster, April Hayes, and Les Tallman, facility administrator for Grand Lake Villa, discuss Peggy’s care following a visit.


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