Becoming a Volunteer Ombudsman
MIFA's Long-Term Care Ombudsman program advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care homes. Through regular visits to facilities by staff and specially trained volunteers, the program investigates and mediates complaints, monitors residents’ care and quality of life, and provides public education for clients and families.
By becoming a volunteer ombudsman representative (VOR), you can change the life of people who live in these facilities. Many of these residents have no one to speak up for them or look out for them, making this population the most vulnerable in our society. Volunteers serve as resident advocates to ensure residents received the quality of care and quality of life they deserve.
What Does a VOR Do?
Ombudsman duties as outlined in Title VII of the Older Americans Act:
- Help resolve problems or complaints faced by people living in assisted living facilities or in long-term care facilities
- Provide information to residents about long-term care services
- Represent the interests of residents before various agencies to seek administrative, legal, and other remedies to protect residents
- Provide education about resident rights and good care practices
- Provide technical support for the development of resident and family councils
- Advocate for changes to improve residents’ quality of life and care
- Promote community involvement through volunteer opportunities
- Address improper transfer and/or discharge of residents
- Investigate allegations of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse in long-term care facilities
- Provide information to the public on nursing homes and assisted living facilities
- Address any resident's or family/legal representative's concern about quality of life
- Educate and inform consumers and the general public regarding issues related to long-term care
Trained ombudsman volunteers pay regular visits to facilities, where they spend time with residents, monitor conditions, investigate complaints, and protect residents’ rights. Additional responsibilities include listening to residents' concerns and problems; problem-solving; reporting observations; supporting residents' rights, privacy, and confidentiality; and referring urgent concerns to the volunteer coordinator or district ombudsman.
Who Can Volunteer?
Volunteers must be at least 21 years old, have access to reliable transportation, and possess genuine care and concern for older adults. VORs may have family members and loved ones in a care facility; however, a VOR may not be currently working in a care facility.
Does Volunteering Require Special Skills?
The most important requirements for VORs are compassion, respect for older persons, and common sense. A positive attitude, ability to communicate effectively, and available time are important. Ombudsman programs provide training and supervision in developing specific skills.
What Are the Benefits of Volunteering?
Volunteers make a difference in the lives of residents, and this experience can also be an opportunity to develop interpersonal skills and prepare for aging. Volunteers can expect to develop skills in communication, listening, relationship building, confidentiality, complaint resolution, and residents' rights.
What Is the Time Commitment?
A one-year commitment is required, during which time volunteers must spend two to three hours per week with residents at their assigned facility. Training sessions are provided and continuing education is expected.
How Do I Become a VOR?
If you are interested in volunteering, contact Kristi Estes at (901) 529-4521 or firstname.lastname@example.org.