Help With Dementia: Use an Ombudsman
Working with the nursing home was a daunting venture in the beginning. I have Power of Attorney for my elderly friend and I want her to get the best care possible. Everyone I spoke with at the facility was friendly-only not always good with follow-up. I went day after day to get the two doctor notes stating that my friend was incompetent to attend to her financial/etc. matters. Given the ring-around for two weeks, I was getting very frustrated. I could not even shut off her electricity without the POA in effect.
"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding. " Solomon
Then, I got both lucky AND wise! Talking with someone with our county's Department of Aging, I mentioned that I needed an advocate, someone who would fight to get the best out of the nursing home AND someone who could attend a big meeting I had requested. Someone with knowledge about the nursing home system and laws. The lady to whom I was talking told me she knew someone who may be able to help. In less than five minutes, I got a phone call from Mary, the woman referred to me by my friend at the Department of Aging. Mary is an ombudsman. I had only ever heard of someone with this title pertaining to Military wives.
Note: I have since researched this word since and find that it originated from Swedish language, meaning "commissioner, agent". An "ombudsman" is someone who investigates complaints and mediates.
Mary took down information and agreed to meet with my friend and me at the nursing home. She attended the meeting with me. We met with the head nurse, dietician, physical therapy technician, activities director, and admissions officer. Each one reported on my friend's condition. Mary took notes, interjecting comments and/or questions. She was a godsend!!! After that, Mary worked with my friend, trying to get her to focus on the future, on the type of place she might like to move to when she left the facility. Prior to Mary's, the ombudsman, attention to the matters at the facility and with my friend, I have seen great improvements. The staff seems more cooperative. K, my elderly friend, is really trying to work in her physical therapy. She WANTS to walk again. Before Mary began helping, K only lay in her bed, had to be fed, could barely talk, and was rarely awake. Before Mary, the staff was over-sedating K. After Mary, I saw that the staff worked more quickly to regulate K's medications so she wasn't so catatonic. Thank God for OMBUDSMEN!
Our ombudsman has been hired through a grant. She works only part-time. What an invaluable asset to our county!!! I do hope that those who are reading this, who may be having difficulties, might look into the Department of Aging in their area to see if there is an ombudsman. If there is not, please encourage your Department of Aging to apply for a grant to get one. They won't be sorry!!!