Giving a Voice to Nursing Facility Residents

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program of Northeast Indiana advocates for those who need it.
Feb 5, 2019
Jaclyn Garver
Giving a Voice to Nursing Facility Residents

One resident might hate the food at her long-term care facility. Another doesn’t want to shower at 5 a.m., as scheduled. A third might put his call light on for help to the restroom, and it takes an hour for someone to show up – or someone shows up but leaves the man on the toilet for an hour.

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program of Northeast Indiana handles issues that arise in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. When residents need help, they can contact the program, which addresses the issue with the facility.

“Ninety-nine percent of cases, we win,” says Aisha R. Arrington, the program’s Executive Director.

Northeast Indiana’s Ombudsman program takes care of the region’s nine counties, covering more than 80 facilities.

“It’s extremely important because, when you are a resident in a long-term care facility, you belong to a vulnerable population,” Arrington says. “You’re at the mercy of others for your care. If you run into problems, it’s important that there’s an outside advocacy group that can advocate on your behalf.”

It’s so important, in fact, that ombudsman programs are funded through the Older Americans Act of 1965, Arrington says. Northeast Indiana’s program has been a standalone site since 2007, and its mission reflects its importance: to champion resident-driven advocacy for long-term facility residents.

Sometimes, the program acts as a sounding board: If a resident says, for example, that a nursing assistant was rough with her, she may not want to report the issue for fear of retaliation.

“How do you feel tattling (on the nurse), then she shows up to give you a shower?” Arrington asks. “We’re a safe place. If the resident doesn’t give the OK to share and investigate, we don’t. We can’t.”

All Ombudsman services are confidential and free. But, Arrington says, the confidentiality is the most important part.

When Arrington was hired in 2009, she wanted to create a community event to explain what the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program is and who it serves. Enter the Pajama Drive.

For the yearly drive, the program collects and hand-delivers new pajamas and night gowns. It allows staff members to introduce themselves and provides a necessity for many residents.

The event kicks off every Valentine’s Day and this year the program will host a brunch Feb. 9 at Fort Wayne’s Parkview Field. Last year, the drive provided new pajamas or gowns to 431 residents; this year, its goal is 500.

“We try to serve a whole building, and we try to pick a building with a greater need,” Arrington says. “Residents are so happy to have a visit, to be acknowledged as a human being who’s worthwhile. The gratitude is something you can’t put into words.”

Long Term Care Ombudsman Program of Northeast Indiana

General Manager: Aisha R. Arrington

Address: 3215 Stellhorn Road Fort Wayne, Indiana 46815

Phone: (260) 469-3161

Website: doingthegood-ombudsman.org

Email: alaroche.ombudsman@gmail.com

Years in Business: since 2007

Products & Services: Providing advocacy to those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

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