Nursing home ombudsmen sought

Published 4:44 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

Legal Aid of East Tennessee is searching for volunteer ombudsmen to serve in local nursing homes.

LAET provides volunteers to 63 facilities in Northeast Tennessee, including six nursing facilities in Carter County, long-term care volunteer ombudsman coordinator Mae Grimes said. Of these, three need volunteer ombudsmen.

Ombudsmen act as the nursing center residents’ advocates in situations where the residents or their families believe their rights have been violated, Grimes said. The ombudsman program is designed to protect the rights of residents in nursing homes, long-term care facilities and assisted-living facilities.

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“The volunteer ombudsman works with the family and the patient to make sure the patient is receiving the best quality care that is available,” Grimes said. “If the ombudsman notices something that bothers them, or that they are not comfortable with, or if the family or resident has a concern, they bring that to our attention and we work to find a resolution.”

LAET works with Ivy Hall Nursing Home, Roan Highlands Nursing Center, Life Care of Elizabethton, Pine Ridge Care and Rehabilitation, Hillview Nursing Home and Hermitage Health Center. Volunteer ombudsmen are needed at Life Care, Pine Ridge and Hermitage, Grimes said.

Volunteers, who must be 21 or older, receive training from LAET on signs or situations to look for. After the volunteers complete training, they will go to the nursing homes. If they are uncomfortable going alone at first, Grimes will accompany them until they feel ready to go alone.

The key to the ombudsman program is for volunteers to develop a relationship with the residents to they will feel comfortable talking with them, Grimes said.

“Volunteers can go as often as they want and stay as long as they want during reasonable hours,” she said. “They go in interact with the residents and their families. The volunteers need to build their trust and let them know they can talk to them in confidence if they have any concerns. Many are afraid they will not be taken care of as well if they have a complaint. We can work to resolve the problem without making a big issue out of it unless we have to.”

Volunteers are able to choose the facility they want to volunteer with that is in need of assistance. Ideally, each center would have at least one volunteer or to have at least 30 volunteers all together for the 63 agencies. The program currently has 18 volunteers, Grimes said.

“We are working to build that back up again,” she said. “Most of our volunteers are retirement age. We had some who moved away and others just couldn’t keep doing it.”

Anyone interested in being a volunteer ombudsman can call 794-2486 or email Grimes at