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RSVP Adds Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) of North Central Iowa has entered into a partnership with Iowa’s Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman and will offer new opportunities for area seniors to give back to their communities.

RSVP is now seeking volunteers to become part of its Volunteer Ombudsman Program. Volunteer Ombudsmen will make unannounced visits to nursing facilities, residential care facilities and elder group homes throughout North Central Iowa to serve as advocates for residents of the facilities.

Representatives from the state office will conduct a training session for Volunteer Ombudsmen from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, in the Conference Center at NIACC. Volunteer Ombudsman applications must be submitted prior to attending training. Applications may be obtained by contacting the RSVP office at (641) 422-4256, (888) 466-4222 or emailing rsvp@niacc.edu.

“I’m pleased RSVP is partnering with the Iowa Department of Aging on the Volunteer Ombudsman Program because the need for advocacy for older Iowans is great throughout the state,” said Molly Anderegg, director of RSVP of North Central Iowa. “If you are passionate about quality care for older Iowans, please give us a call. Your service is needed.”
Volunteer Ombudsmen are trained, certified volunteers who visit a local long-term care facility to advocate for residents’ rights. Volunteers will visit with residents about their quality of care and quality of life in the facility and seek to resolve any concerns voiced by the residents or that they observe during their visit. They also meet with new residents and their families to explain the ombudsman program.

Those interested in volunteering should have a friendly disposition, active listening skills, and collaborative problem solving skills, a strong appreciation for older Iowans and Iowans with disabilities. Volunteers must pass a criminal history and abuse background check, and must agree to serve at least three hours each month for a year.

RSVP offers volunteer opportunities to those 55 and older in Cerro Gordo, Hancock, Winnebago and Worth counties. Volunteer Ombudsmen are needed in all four counties of the RSVP service area.

The Iowa Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman works to ensure that residents’ and tenants’ voices are heard and their rights are maintained in Iowa’s 445 nursing facilities and in 408 assisted living programs, residential care facilities, and elder group homes statewide. This includes visiting the 53,520 residents within these facilities. In the past, eight Local Long Term Care Ombudsmen have been responsible for making the visits, amounting to 6,690 residents and 106 facilities per ombudsman.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that states have at least one Long-Term Care Ombudsman per every 2,000 residents, a standard Iowa has struggled to meet. The Office of the State Long Term Care Ombudsman’s 2012 Annual Report indicates that the Local Ombudsmen were able to serve 3,440 residents and tenants that year. The local ombudsmen reported that most of their visits were the result of a complaint from a resident. However, according to the National Ombudsman Resource Center, many residents hesitate to voice their concerns for fear of real or perceived reprisal, meaning that some resident complaints are likely going unreported and unassisted.

Those results led to an effort to increase the reach of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office, and the Iowa Legislature provided funding for a Volunteer Ombudsman Program that will certify community volunteers to visit a specific facility in their community to identify and resolve resident concerns.

For information about the Volunteer Ombudsman Program or to request an application, contact the RSVP office at (641) 422-4256, (888) 466-4222 or email rsvp@niacc.edu. Information also is available by calling Sarah Hinzman, volunteer coordinator for the Volunteer Ombudsman Program, at (866) 236-1430, or visiting the program website at www.iowaaging.gov/vop.

Facilities included in the first phase of the long-term care ombudsman program are as follows:

Cerro Gordo County: Good Shepherd Health Center, Heritage Care & Rehabilitation Center, Iowa Odd Fellows & Orphans Home, Mercy Health Services, Mason City; Oakwood Care Center, Clear Lake; Rockwell Community Nursing Home, Rockwell.

Hancock County: Concord Care Center, Duncan Heights, Garner; Kanawha Community Home, Kanawha; Westview Care Center, Britt.

Winnebago County: Good Samaritan Society, Forest City; Lake Mills Care Center, Lake Mills; Timely Mission Nursing Home, Buffalo Center.

Worth County: Lutheran Retirement Home, Northwood; Manly Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Manly.

For more information on RSVP of North Central Iowa call 1-888-466-4222 ext. 4256, (641) 422-4256 or www.niacc.edu/community-and-continuing-education/continuing-education/rsvp/

RSVP of North Central Iowa serves the counties of Cerro Gordo, Hancock, Winnebago and Worth responding to priority community needs by providing meaningful, purposeful volunteer opportunities for people ages 55 and over.

RSVP is sponsored by North Iowa Area Community College and is partly funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, State of Iowa, United Way of North Central Iowa and local county governments.

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