Ombudsmen Work To Improve Life, Care For Seniors

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Three Payson residents have devoted at least 10 years of their lives to serving senior citizens in long-term care facilities.

Josephine Kelso, Roger Hattrup and Ruth Thomas were all honored last week for 10 or more years of service in the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens Ombudsman Program. Also honored were other members of the program: Richard Jumper, Douglas Kopper, Joyce Lynch and Jeannie Riddel.

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Honored Friday for their service to the residents of area nursing homes through the Arizona Long Term Care Ombudsman Program were Payson participants, standing, from left, Roger Hattrup, Joyce Lynch, Douglas Kopper; seated, from left, Josephine Kelso and Jeannie Riddel; and, not pictured, Ruth Thomas and Richard Jumper.

An ombudsman is a specially trained and certified advocate working to improve the quality of life and the quality of care of residents living in long-term care facilities. They provide routine visits to the facilities, talk to residents about their concerns and monitor conditions in the facilities.

"I plan to continue for a couple more years because it is so rewarding," Kelso said. She has been with the program since February 1992. Thomas became an ombudsman in November 1992, but retired about two years ago, though she retains her certification, and Hattrup has been serving since September 1993.

Kelso said she has stayed with the program as long as she has because "our manager, Rebecca Jennings, is so good to us."

But there also is the praise from the residents she has assisted in four different long-term care facilities.

"I do for them and they do for me," she said.

Kelso joined the program after attending a meeting at Manzanita Manor. She said 12 volunteers joined at that time.

"It's a wonderful program. Everyone -- us elderly people -- should join it," Kelso said.

Hattrup became involved in the program after seeing an advertisement in the Roundup.

"I responded and was trained, and I've been with it for 10 years," he said. "It's interesting and satisfying. Sometimes it's frustrating, but in the end it is satisfying."

While helping senior citizens is the primary aspect of the program, Hattrup said, "They look forward to the visits. It's nice to visit. Some have had very interesting lives and like to talk about themselves. We're trained listeners as well as trained problem solvers."

He said he hasn't made any plans to take a long fishing trip anytime soon, meaning he plans to stay with the program.

"I'm hooked on the program," he said. "By now, it's kind of a habit. It's real satisfying to help people. It's not a job, I'm a volunteer, and that makes it more rewarding."

He said they don't know all the answers, but they know the phone numbers to call to get the answers. Most of his calls are to the program's Casa Grande office.

"I have that number memorized. I know it better than my own," Hattrup said.

The volunteers also will work with the Arizona Attorney General's ombudsman office when necessary.

The Payson volunteers also rely on each other, Hattrup said.

"We help each other. It's almost like family. We look out for each other," he said

The group, and their Globe-Miami counterparts, were treated to a luncheon last Friday at Payson's Country Kitchen restaurant.

The job description for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman involved investigating and resolving complaints on behalf of long-term care residents. They also educate residents, the families of residents, staffs at the facilities and the community at large about:

  • Resident rights, and help residents to exercise those rights, which are provided for by law and include the right to self-determination, to be treated with dignity, respect and consideration, to be free from the use of chemical and/or physical restraints, to be free from abuse, neglect, exploitation and involuntary seclusion, to participate in planning for care and treatment, the right to privacy and the right to participate in social and community activities of choice;
  • Ombudsman services;
  • The needs of long-term care residents; and
  • Long-term care issues and services.

Additionally, volunteer ombudsmen identify problem areas in long-term care facilities and advocate for change; assist residents in obtaining needed services; promote resident, family and community involvement in long-term care; empower residents and families to advocate for themselves; and coordinate efforts with other agencies and service providers.

The services to long-term care residents and their families are free of charge and strictly confidential.

Rebecca Jennings is with the Area Agency on Aging for Pinal and Gila Counties. For more information about the program, call her at (800) 293-9393.

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