Be your own advocate

Written by Megan Benner Senecal. Posted in Taking Care of Your Life

There is an issue in a nursing home where you live. Let’s say it’s something fairly simple. You’ve lost the sweater your daughter just dropped off for you on your birthday. You wore it several times and had it washed by facility staff. It never came back from the wash.


You call the ombudsman. Our investigation (at some point) leads us to believe you did in fact have a new sweater from your daughter. The facility is not as confident since it was never catalogued in your belongings list. While the ombudsman attempts to advocate to the facility for its replacement, the advocacy effort is impaired due to lack of evidence. At some point, you, your family, or an ombudsman may refer this issue out to the Ohio Department of Health for regulatory enforcement. The Ohio Department of Health comes out on your complaint of missing belongings. Unfortunately, they can’t substantiate your complaint based upon their evidentiary criteria. So now, you are not only without a sweater, but you are also feeling as if you’ve exhausted all available options to get this issue resolved.

Looking at this story, the first and most obvious point is that it is important to have your items catalogued in the belongings list. However, another perspective addresses the rule itself. While the rules and regulations are building blocks for you and your ombudsman to resolve and address complaints, they can also be stumbling blocks. The rule states the facility must keep all belongings reasonably safe, but nowhere does it outline how and what must be done in order to achieve that “safety.” Be your own advocate and be your neighbor’s advocate. Write your state representatives and inform them of your experiences, lapses in resources, and your ideas on how to make long-term-care services and support better for everyone.

While ombudsmen and the Ohio Department of Health are resources and here to enable quality care, we are limited in that we function within the existing framework for long-term- care regulations. It is imperative to get involved locally, regionally, or at the state level in order to make our collective voices heard in an effort to provide novel ideas to our elected officials and advocate for long-term-care regulatory reform. If you need information on how to contact the representatives on the Aging and Long-Term-Care Committee in the Ohio House of Representatives, feel free to give our Ombudsman Office a call at 419-259-2891.

Megan Benner Senecal is a member of the Ombudsman Office. ❦