The Devil and Mrs. Jones, Part 10: I need an ombudsman

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

Mrs. Jones has lived in her assisted-living apartment for some time now. She moved in during the pandemic, so things thus far have been an altogether atypical experience. Last month, we discussed how Mrs. Jones relies on the facility staff for care and support when her family can’t visit. Similarly, we discussed that in many cases, staff members find the same fulfillment with the interpersonal relationships they build with facility residents. However, like any relationship, there are always a few struggles.

Recently, Mrs. Jones has been having some difficulty. Mrs. Jones is concerned that during the evenings and weekends at her facility there isn’t enough staff. The help that Mrs. Jones typically receives from the aides has been decreasing—call light wait times are longer, some care needs aren’t being met, and when her meals are delivered, they are cold. After a few weeks of this, Mrs. Jones was frustrated enough to call her daughter.

Her daughter called the Ombudsman. Our intake staff member listened to the concerns and wrote up a case. The next step that Ombudsmen take is to reach out to the resident and gain consent to advocate on the resident’s behalf. This is a very important piece of Ombudsman work. As resident advocates, it is important that we give residents the chance to discuss with us directly their concerns, their goals, and their needs. If when we speak to the resident they aren’t able to understand the role of the Ombudsman advocate, due to cognitive loss or some other issue, the next step for the Ombudsman is to seek consent from the resident’s decision maker.

In this instance, Mrs. Jones understood the Ombudsman role and gave the Ombudsman consent to assist her with her concerns. It is important to understand this step when you seek out an Ombudsman. While some family members may be frustrated, it is our job to make sure that the resident has a voice and choice, even if they decide they don’t want our help at this time.

Since Mrs. Jones is providing consent for the Ombudsman to work with her, the Ombudsman and Mrs. Jones develop goals and plans for next steps. The next steps can take many forms, depending on the goals of the case.

Please continue to call our office at 419-259-2891 with your concerns or questions so that we may assist you in obtaining quality care for long-term-care residents.

Megan Benner Senecal is a member of the Ombudsman Office.