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With over 9000 long-term care beds in Pierce County there are so many residents, both seniors and individuals with disabilities, that call these facilities home. Even when family lives close and is very attentive and available it is invaluable to have a trained, resident-directed advocate available for questions, resources, assistance, or partnership. The reward of being a voice for long-term care residents is purposeful and life-giving. If you have ever asked yourself, "where can I help", advocacy for long-term care residents is one place to consider.
Our volunteers have described this opportunity as being a unique way to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Below are quotes directly from our ombudsman volunteers:
“I love empowering residents to be their own advocate.”
“To spend time with someone who may have few if any visitors feels really good.”
“The residents are so grateful for ombudsmen, it’s a win-win relationship.”
“On days when it’s really hard to be an ombudsman, because, I will not lie, sometimes we see or are involved with very difficult situations, the kindness, knowledge and support of my volunteers lifts me up.”
To be an ombudsman in WA state requires getting certified. There is an extensive 36-hour certification training that involves both “classroom” time and time shadowing staff and volunteers in long-term care facilities. Additionally, monthly volunteer meetings are held that include continuing education, group problem-solving, encouragement, and coaching. Learn more about volunteering here: https://www.piercecountywa.gov/1302/Long-Term-Care-Ombudsman
The first is the ability to get to know new people. Consequently, it’s vital to enjoy meeting people, and all kinds of people, from different backgrounds, cultures and with different experiences than yours. Bring to this role open-mindedness, nonjudgement, and compassion. The other hat most often worn by ombudsmen is problem-solver. Helpful skills include resourcefulness, initiative, diplomacy, trust-building, follow-through, and listening. Also important is documentation skills; there are program reporting requirements and forms to complete.
The ombudsman program started in 1972 as a demonstration program in five skilled nursing facilities focusing on complaint resolution. In 1978, amendments to the Older Americans Act required all states to establish an ombudsman program. Duties were expanded to assisted living facilities in 1981. In 2015, Final Regulations for the long-term care ombudsman program were published in the Federal Register and in 2016 the Older Americans Act was reauthorized.
Pierce County has at least 32 skilled nursing facilities, 69 assisted living facilities and 640 adult family homes. Volunteers have a choice of the type of facility in which they serve and the number. Many volunteers enjoy a mix of assigned facilities. Additionally, there is continual assessment to ensure volunteers have the number and type of facility(s) best suited for them.
There is a four hour per week time commitment required to stay certified as an ombudsman. The beauty of this time commitment is it is totally flexible and can be arranged around your schedule. When you are traveling or busy with prior commitments, other volunteers or staff will serve your facilities as needed.
Yes! Care and compassion for the elderly and/or disabled are two of the most important traits of an ombudsman. Through thorough and ongoing training and support, you will learn the skills and resources most used as an ombudsman. After training, you will understand the steps and tools to becoming an effective ombudsman and will be on your way towards making a significant positive difference in the lives of long-term care residents.
The first step in becoming a volunteer ombudsman is to complete the volunteer application. To request a hard copy be mailed to you, call 253-798-2710 or mail us at Pierce County Long Term Care Ombudsman, 3602 Pacific Ave, Tacoma WA 98418.
Once a volunteer application is received, staff will contact you to schedule a phone, in-person or virtual interview. Volunteers must pass a required background check.
Pierce County wants to hear from you. Please select one of the following to talk to elected officials and staff, or to report problems in our community.