Systemic advocacy and community action through COPE

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

As Long-Term-Care Ombudsmen, in addition to case handling, education, and person-centered advocacy, we also make a point to join coalitions and groups in our area in service of protecting and advocating for older adults on a systemic level. One such group that we belong to is called the Coalition of Organizations Protecting Elders (COPE).

The vision of COPE is to develop resources enabling “A community where older adults are safe, respected, valued, and free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” The value system of COPE centers around the following ideals:

  • We believe that all elders have dignity, value, and self-worth regardless of age.
  • We value collaborative efforts that focus on positive outcomes.
  • We recognize the valuable contributions that elders make to enhance our community.
  • We value the safety and well-being of elders in our community.
  • We value the contributions of our elders to our community and their right to self-determination.
  • We believe in the right of elders to lead productive and purposeful lives, free of all abuse.
  • We are committed to providing a strong voice on behalf of elders and preserve their rights and freedom.

The Ombudsmen in our program work with COPE and belong to several COPE sub-committees designed to address a variety of hot-button issues facing older adults and long-term-care consumers and providers. In addition to the systemic advocacy conducted through COPE, the organization also facilitates an interdisciplinary team to discuss difficult cases of confirmed and suspected elder abuse. We each leverage our skills, knowledge, and connections to make our area safer for our elders and their caregivers.

Currently, members of COPE and other older-adult advocates are working on several projects to address identified need in our area for supports, services, and education around issues of abuse and long-term-care staffing. One initiative in planning and development is the Emergency Shelter Initiative (ESI). The ESI is designed to develop a support and systematic approach to helping, housing, and advocating for older adult victims of domestic violence by using already existing infrastructure in long-term-care supports and services. Additionally, the COPE Advocacy Sub-Committee is working to develop an educational summit to address the staffing crisis in long-term care.

The aforementioned projects are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what COPE and its members are able to work on and achieve with the support and knowledge exchanged between professionals in our area. Members of COPE include Probate Court, Senior Protection Unit from the County Prosecutors Office, Memory Lane Care Services, Area office on Aging, the Ombudsman, Adult Protective Services, Home Care Providers, Older Adult Service Agencies, and even employees of banks and members of law enforcement. If you or your agency or employer feel you would like to join us at COPE, please reach out to our office for more information.

As always, if you want to speak about this article, or have a question or concern related to yourself or a loved one using long-term-care supports or services, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We look forward to hearing from you! The Long-Term-Care-Ombudsman program can be reached at 419-259-2891.

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