JAN NOYES: Quality of life matters

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You never know when a kind word, a held hand, a smile, a few minutes spent listening, or a problem solved will make a difference in the quality of someone’s life … particularly to someone living in a long-term care facility who has few or no visitors, limited activities, is confined to a wheelchair, or spends most of her days dreaming about how life used to be.

It’s mainly the elderly who move into long-term care facilities when disabilities make it unsafe for them to live on their own. Whatever the reason for the move, it isn’t an easy decision to make and it means a big adjustment to a whole new way of life.

Living in an assisted living or nursing facility is not on anyone’s bucket list. It may be the best alternative and a blessing to some, but no one is eager to lose their independence, give up most of their belongings, move in with a group of strangers, and depend on others for often very personal care.

Quality of care matters. Unfortunately, not all facilities give the same level of care. The caregivers work hard and care about the residents, but understaffing is one of the major complaints residents have. Staff doesn’t have time to sit and chat, look at picture albums, reminisce about days gone by, or just listen. Staff is directed to “meet the needs” of the residents, but that may mean a limited amount of time to give to each one.

Residents need to feel confidence in their care. They need to feel that they matter as individuals and that they have some control over their lives. When individual needs or choices are not taken into consideration or when a person’s individuality isn’t validated, a resident may become discouraged, lonely and depressed. Quality of life matters.

Some facility schedules are convenient for the facility but not for the residents. Baths may be scheduled too early, or showers skipped because staff is running late, or the activity schedule is posted but not followed, or menus are not balanced, or food is served lukewarm. Consistency matters. Ombudsmen can made a difference.

Long-Term Care Ombudsmen visit assisted living and skilled nursing facilities, check out the environment, listen to resident concerns, and help solve problems big and small. We make every effort to help solve problems to the resident’s benefit and satisfaction. Our focus is on resident rights, quality of care and quality of life.

Volunteering as an ombudsman is valuable and rewarding, to both the volunteers and the residents of long-term care. If you’re a good communicator, caring, patient and dependable, and want to do something to make a positive difference in a vulnerable elder’s life, consider joining our team as a volunteer ombudsman.

The next training is Sept. 11 to Oct. 22, one day a week for seven weeks, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, please contact Jan Noyes at 208-667-3179 ext. 243, or jnoyes@aaani.org.

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Jan Noyes is the volunteer ombudsman coordinator for the Area Agency on Aging.

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