The gift of giving

by Karen Leslie, writer with heart

A winter wonderland in Ventura you ask? Yes indeed! On December 9th, 2018 Santa Claus arrived, HO HO HO-ING to the 2nd annual open house Fundraiser Benefit for The Ventura County Ombudsman Program.

Visitors journeyed back in time to the 1950’s at Christmastime, to the small Minnesota town of Anoka , also known as the Halloween capital of the world. The lighted 1500-piece community Snow Village was collected and assembled with passionate devotion over a 22 year span by board member Elbie Daw. From fine wines, handmade baskets to collectible cars, guests enjoyed the ultimate wonderland experience!

“Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone”

The Ventura County Ombudsman Program began when Bee Ellisman’s mother was in a nursing home and witnessed firsthand the need for advocates for elderly residents. In 1989 founders, Ellisman and Shirley Radding along with one staff member and two volunteers began monitoring 12 Ventura County nursing facilities, advocating for decent care and quality of life for 1,482 elderly residents.

In 1988, the founders incorporated Long-Term Care Services of Ventura County Inc, a non-profit charitable corporation. In 1991 the program was named a model by the state of California for its outstanding efforts on behalf of the elderly.

Ambudsman is a Swedish word meaning advocate. Executive director, Sylvia Taylor-Stein shares, “Sixty percent of those who live in nursing homes have no family or friends to watch out or visit them and are too fearful, vulnerable or frail to represent themselves. No other agency or program exists solely for the elderly. Each year The Ombudsman Program provides long-term care elders, their families and the community at large over 20,000 hours of free service. The non-profits greatest asset provides a value of $160,000 of in-kind services to seniors and the disabled. The program is federally mandated and does not receive financial support from federal or state government. As a result the program depends on funds from sources that include private foundations, community development, block grant funding, individual and public contributions.”

Jaw dropping U.S. numbers for the Ombudsman Program in 2016; There are 53 State Ombudsmen -1,300 full-time equivalent staff -7,331 volunteers trained to investigate and resolve complaints – information regarding long term care to 378,526 individuals – visited 28,473 long-term care facilities – provided information and assistance to 115,708 LTC facility and staff – attended 1,974 training sessions and worked to resolve 199,494 complaints.

In 2017, the state of California alone; investigated 41,834 complaints, responded to 26,392 calls, visited 4,105 facilities and provided 68,948 individual consultations.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. As mediators, LTCOP’s addresses a variety of complaints; violation of resident’s rights and dignity – physical, verbal or mental abuse – deprivation of services necessary to maintain residents physical and mental health – unreasonable confinement – poor quality of care including personal hygiene, slow response to requests for assistance, improper transfer or discharge of patient and inappropriate use of chemical or physical restraint. Other rights include; citizenship, privacy, freedom, information, residency and expression.

Retired Army Colonel and 20+year Ambudsman member, Leo Molitor shares, “It only takes a compliment or touch on the shoulder to electrify a resident”

Sylvia shares, “The program’s goal is to continue to bring strong effective advocacy and support services that help ensure a higher quality of life for this neglected population, a group whose numbers are expected to double in the next 10 years.”

Santa’s Christmas wish, “Peace for the world.”

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