The VOYCE for Those in Long-Term Care
A solitary figure sat slumped in her wheelchair before a large window. It was a beautiful day outside, but Anna could not see it. Anna's back had gradually bowed with age until her view of the world was the floor around her. She had not been able to lift her head to look outside for a long time. But that was not what troubled her on this particular day. Today, she was hungry. She thought she had heard others being taken to the dining room for lunch. When were they going to come for her? A soft hand on her shoulder startled Anna. "Hello, Anna, what are you doing sitting out here all alone?" Just then Kay's sweet face appeared in Anna's line of sight. Kay was sitting on the floor so Anna could see her! Anna smiled and knew her day was about to improve.
Kay is a former volunteer ombudsman for VOYCE, previously the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. The word ombudsman (ombudz-man) is of Swedish origin and means "one who speaks on behalf of another." The Missouri Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman program is comprised of individuals whose main responsibility is to help residents in long-term care communities maintain or improve their quality of life by helping ensure their rights are not violated. Kay investigated and discovered that Anna had been accidentally forgotten and missed lunch. She took action and was able to get a meal for her.
Seventy percent of people 65 and older need long-term care. VOYCE is committed to empowering and educating residents and their families by illuminating their choices, providing a "voice" for them, giving them compassionate and comforting support, and building relationships with caregivers and the community.
More than 50% of individuals living in long-term care settings have no one to advocate for them and no way to resolve problems for themselves. VOYCE gives them a voice. VOYCE is the principal source of information and advocacy for these individuals and their families in 21 Missouri counties. There are currently only two facilities with assigned ombudsmen in two of Franklin County's 10 skilled long-term care facilities. The goal is to have at least one in every facility.
While most nursing homes and other long-term care communities do a good job of caring for their residents, sometimes there are issues that can cause friction or unhappiness for a resident. An ombudsman is someone who can help the residents address their needs to ensure a high quality of life. The greatest issue for most nursing home residents is loneliness. Forty percent of all nursing home residents are visited less than once per year! An ombudsman befriends these lonely individuals. They listen when there is no one else who does and work to resolve their concerns.
Kay, a former ombudsman, said, "What they need is someone who will just listen to them. I was an ear."
Another Franklin County VOYCE ombudsman, Larry Geisler, feels the same way. "I have done a few things here and there to assist the residents from time to time but mostly I am an ear to listen to them and for them to have someone they can talk to since most of them have very few (if any) visitors."
VOYCE ombudsmen play a key role for area families by making sure their loved ones have a voice and are getting the best possible care.