A Volunteer's Story
- Written by Jessica Riel
- Published: 31 August 2017
Long-Term Care Ombudsman Volunteer Allen Ross listens, advocates, and encourages residents of rest and nursing homes
Allen Ross was reading The Good Life section of The Greenfield Recorder one day when he came upon an article about opportunities to volunteer with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at LifePath. Having just retired, Allen had been thinking about what kind of volunteer experience would interest him. The importance of advocacy for residents of long-term care facilities resonated with him.
“It shone a light on the importance of working with this very vulnerable population in these settings,” says Allen, “putting into place structures that would offer advocacy and support for individuals in what might be the most fragile period of their lives.”
Allen has now been a volunteer Ombudsman at LaBelle’s Rest Home in Shelburne Falls for over a year. He enjoys hearing stories, as well as helping people find their strengths and learn to represent themselves.
Residents come from a variety of unique backgrounds; they have had times of trauma and resilience, various life expectations, and networks of loved ones. They may have experienced the loss of a life partner and changes in their health and community. They enter the facility and everything is new; in a residential living community, they might be sharing a room and interacting with people they may have never chosen to spend time with otherwise. Ombudsmen help to address problems, but they also help to initiate a person’s entrance into these new communities.
“You are the advocate of the residents,” says Allen. 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, 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.
“There’s a good amount of training,” says Allen, “and you’re not thrown into the job, but gradually move into the position.” New volunteers go along on visits with Program Director Trevor Boeding, who checks in to make sure the 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.”
Now, support is a phone call away, says Allen. He feels that he is given space to do this own thing but also appreciates the monthly meetings and says he doesn’t feel isolated as a volunteer, but can share issues with his peers.
“People have always interested me,” says Allen, who has always wanted to be helpful to others. “I look forward to coming each week to pick up where I left off.”
Do you want to learn more about becoming a volunteer Ombudsman?
Now is the perfect time! Volunteers are needed at several facilities, and the next free training will take place in Florence, Mass., from Monday, October 23, to Wednesday, October 25, 2017. With questions or to apply, click here or call Trevor Boeding at 413-773-5555 x2241 or 978-544-2259 x2241.