When Oregonians who volunteer as long-term care ombudsmen got together last week, one thing they learned is that more of them are needed around the state.
About 43,000 residents live in nursing homes, adult foster homes and other long-term care facilities in Oregon. Ombudsmen, who are trained to advocate for them, gathered in Wilsonville for policy updates and additional training.
They also heard from Dr. Fernando Torres Gil, a national AARP board member. Gil pointed out that as the population begins a dramatic age shift in the next 20 years, the role of ombudsmen will become even more critical.
"These people are, in many respects, kind of the first line of defense in terms of preventing elder abuse, monitoring patient issues and ensuring that there's a certain level of care and safety and dignity for long-term care residents in the state of Oregon," Gil said.
Ombudsmen have their work cut out for them, with more than 2,300 facilities to visit in every corner of the state. Mary Jaeger, who heads the Oregon Long-Term Care Ombudsman (LTCO) office, noted the constant need for more volunteers, many of whom are in their 50s and 60s. According to a report on the LTCO website, the current group of about 200 ombudsmen fields more than 1,100 inquiries and complaints a month.
"We are only getting to about 70 percent of the places where people live," said Jaeger. "We also have a 1-800 number, with staff members staffing that line every day. That actually brings quite a number of calls into our office."
Oregon requires an initial five-day training course and exam for prospective ombudsmen. They must be age 21 or older, pass a criminal background check, and be able to spend four hours a week visiting their assigned facilities. The 2013 ombudsman training schedule and more information about the program are available by calling 800-522-2602 or visiting www.oregon.gov/LTCO.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service provided this report