If there is one thing Aisha Arrington wishes people would remember, it’s that nursing home residents are people; they just can’t care for themselves without help. For this group that is often ignored, neglected or forgotten, having an advocate can make a huge difference in their quality of life. As executive director of the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program in northeast Indiana, Arrington takes that personally.
“Human beings – that’s who we are advocating for,” says Arrington. “What pulls at my heart is that we’re serving a population of people that is now one of our most vulnerable populations.”
Mandated through the Older Americans Act of 1965, each state must have an ombudsman program to promote and protect the rights of long-term care residents. Arrington oversees Indiana’s Region 3 serving nine counties in the state’s northeast corner.
“What we do all day long is answer calls that involve questions about care, complaints about care and residents’ rights,” explains Arrington. “We support the resident to have the quality of life they want to have for themselves. That’s not up to the family or the facility.”
The calls received by the LTC Ombudsman Program vary widely, and some are easier to resolve than others. During the pandemic, for example, many residents indicated they were not receiving showers. In addition to placing calls to those facilities, Arrington and her team assembled and hand delivered shower kits.
“Showing up at the door with a shower kit for a particular resident is a good reminder that someone outside the facility cares and is watching,” says Arrington.
Resolving any issue begins with the resident granting permission for the ombudsman to act on his or her behalf. The ombudsman then meets with the facility to review the resident’s care plan and give the resident the chance to voice concerns. Together the ombudsman, resident and facility determine action steps that work toward resolution.
Arrington oversees a cadre of trained and certified volunteers who do the legwork. Each is assigned to a facility, which they visit at least twice a month in addition to responding to calls.
“Our volunteers are the heart of the organization,” says Arrington. “Although the work can be difficult, it is VERY rewarding.”
Advocacy, explains Arrington, comes down to listening to the resident and being kind. “It’s the kindness that gives that person hope.”
To celebrate National Residents’ Rights month in October, the LTC Ombudsman Program will host a fundraising event called Rockin’ for Residents’ Rights on Oct. 21 at the Botanical Conservatory. The evening features live music, cocktails, appetizers and a silent auction. The LTC Ombudsman Program also hosts an annual pajama drive, which kicks off each year on Feb. 14. More information about both events can be found on the LTC Ombudsman website listed at the left.
Address: 3458 Stellhorn Road Fort Wayne, Indiana 46815
Phone: (260) 469-3161
Products & Services: Investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents of long-term care facilities. An Ombudsman can also provide information about: How to find a facility and what to do to get quality care; assistance with family and resident councils; and current legislative and regulatory efforts in the state.