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Volunteer Ombudsmen support residents of local long-term care facilities, and so can you!

Learn to advocate for elders and people with disabilities in a few flexible hours a week with free training

Sept 2017 AVS Linda Ackerman Ombudsman Volunteer photo WEBLinda Ackerman, volunteer Long-Term Care Ombudsman, visits with Richard Boyle, a resident of New England Health Center, a nursing facility in Sunderland.Want to volunteer to make a difference in your community? The next Long-Term Care Ombudsman training is your chance! Volunteers in Greenfield, Shelburne Falls, and Turners Falls are especially needed.

Attend the next free volunteer training for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program on February 26 and 27, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and February 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with breaks for lunch, in Holyoke, Mass.

With questions or to apply, click here. Even if you can’t make it to this training, you can still reach out to be added to the list for a future session.

“An Ombudsman is someone that they can feel at ease with, laugh with, and talk to,” says Annmarie Newton, a recently retired volunteer with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at LifePath, who visited residents of a local nursing home for nearly a decade. “My goal is to make people feel comfortable, good about themselves, and happier or more content.”

Annemarie began her visits in the common room, where people are “hearing music, watching a movie, playing cards,” and spoke to everyone, asking how things are going.

“You are the advocate of the residents,” says Allen Ross, also a volunteer ombudsman. The focus is on confidentiality, listening, and establishing relationships with each resident, as well as helping to identify concerns. “The role of ombudsman really gave an opportunity to respectfully enter the lives of these individuals,” to offer support, listen, says Allen, and “assist in helping them find their voice.” For those individuals who feel unable to address a situation on their own, Ombudsmen will act as advocates on their behalf with facility staff. Quality of life and quality of care for the residents are the common goals.

Linda Ackerman, another volunteer, believes others would enjoy becoming volunteer Ombudsmen as well. “Anyone going into it, they don’t have to worry about having a medical background,” she says. “You’re always learning.”

Before it all begins, new volunteers receive in-depth Ombudsman basic training from the state, which covers topics like nursing facility regulations and negotiating, along with field training from Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Director Trevor Boeding. “The mentoring experience was extremely important to me,” says Ombudsman Robert Amyot. “Otherwise, I would not have been able to start doing Ombudsman work on my own as effectively and with enough confidence in myself.” 

Allen agrees. “You’re not thrown into the job, but gradually move into the position.” New volunteers go along on visits with Trevor, who checks in to make sure each volunteer is ready before venturing out on their own. “It’s very thoughtful assistance in building one’s confidence to go ahead and do it independently.”

Interested volunteers must successfully complete the application process, which includes CORI, reference checks, and an interview with the program director, before attending the training. Volunteers are reimbursed for their mileage to and from the facility to which they are assigned.