Below is an excerpt from the full article called Gift of Giving -Ventura County Reporter.
Ventura County Ombudsman Program
When Bee Ellisman’s mother was in a nursing home, Bee visited her often, witnessing firsthand the need for advocates for elderly residents.
In 1981, Ellisman and her friend Shirley Radding founded the Ventura County Ombudsman Program based on the principle that elderly persons unable to care for themselves are entitled to dependable and consistent care.
With a small grant to get started, the founders, one staff member and two volunteers began monitoring 12 nursing facilities in Ventura County and 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 nonprofit charitable corporation, to administer the program. In 1991 the Ventura County Ombudsman program was named a model effort by the state of California for its outstanding efforts on behalf of institutionalized elderly.
“Ombudsman is a Swedish word meaning advocate,” said Sylvia Taylor-Stein of Oxnard, executive director of Long Term Care Services of Ventura County Inc.
A special aspect of the program is its facility visitation plan, she said.
“The federal mandate governing the Ombudsman program nationwide requires only one annual visit per facility,” Taylor-Stein said. “However, the founders, foreseeing the built-in failure in such a deficient model, set a mandate for Ventura County that stipulated all skilled nursing facilities would be monitored a minimum of once a week and all assisted living facilities a minimum of once a month.”
This mandate has continued uninterrupted, and today five staff members and 63 volunteers advocate for decent care and quality of life for 9,500 disabled and elderly persons in Ventura County’s 231 long-term care facilities.
“Sixty percent of those who live in nursing homes have no family or friends to watch out for them or visit them, and are too fearful, vulnerable or frail to represent themselves,” Taylor-Stein said.
Intense training and a strong commitment to the elderly are required to become an Ombudsman, including 36 hours of classroom training, 15 hours of field service and 12 hours a year of continuing education to earn and retain certification by the State of California.
“This specialized training equips him or her to investigate and resolve complaints on behalf of elderly residents, and handle the myriad of problems that may arise in long-term care settings,” Taylor-Stein said. “For problems that cannot be resolved onsite or involve serious neglect or abuse, the Ombudsman enlists the help of licensing agencies, law enforcement and the District Attorney.”
Ombudsman services are confidential and free of charge.
“No other agency or program exists solely to advocate for the institutionalized elderly,” Taylor-Stein said. “Each year, the Ombudsman program provides the elders of Ventura County, their families and the community at large over 20,000 hours of free services.”
Volunteers, the nonprofit’s greatest asset, provide a value of $160,000 of in-kind services to the seniors and disabled in long-term care facilities.
“However, training and supporting volunteers, investigating complaints, pre-placement counseling, in-service training of paid facility staff, providing community education and support groups requires a professional staff,” Taylor-Stein said. “With a small paid staff and volunteers, we are able to provide 12 months of advocacy and support to one senior or disabled person in long-term care.”
Although the program is federally mandated, it does not receive the financial support from the federal or state government to provide services that the elderly and disabled require, Taylor-Stein said.
As a result, the program depends on funds from sources that include private foundations, community development block grant funding, and individual and public contributions.
“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 vulnerable neglected population — a group whose numbers are expected to double in the next 10 years,” Taylor-Stein said.
The gift of giving
Local nonprofit leaders share their stories of inspiration
By Alicia Doyle, VC Reporter 11/25/2015