Ombudsman, Resident & Family Advocate
Ombudsman, Resident & Family Advocate: The role of an ombudsman is to visit every community to ensure the residents are being properly cared for and their concerns are heard.
I had a friend whom I’ve known since I was a teenager, way back when. I saw him move through the stages of his life as a student, a soldier, a husband and father, a high school teacher and coach, and an intrepid traveler. He retired on a fixed income, writing poems and songs, playing the guitar, the harmonica, and learning the violin.
My friend’s life, of course, had its ups and downs, but he maintained a positive attitude, an intellectual curiosity, and a will to live life as fully as he was capable. Problem was, he had a failing body. His once strong legs that hiked mountains, ran track, and danced around a boxing ring suffered from peripheral neuropathy, and he spent most of his time in a wheelchair. Ten stents kept his arteries open and a pacemaker kept his heart beating a steady rhythm.
He always had a keen wit and a hearty laugh, but he told me he could cry at the drop of a hat, perhaps because aging taught him compassion and to be unafraid of being authentic. Even though we constantly look for ways to live longer, our culture is often lacking in respect for age. It’s common to joke about it as if it’s something to be ridiculed. We forget that wisdom often comes with the experience of growing older. My friend was overflowing with wisdom.
I recently spent time with him after many years apart and he reminded me, simply by being who he always was, that the body is not the soul that lives inside. The body may fall apart, even the mind may falter, but the soul is timeless and ageless.
Besides the violin, the harmonica, the guitar, writing poems and keeping in contact with friends on Facebook, he decided on a new venture: to write a book. He said if he could choose another time to live, he’d be a lawman in the Old West or maybe a wagon master leading pioneers across the country to a new life. So, naturally, his story was about a cowboy turned lawman who led his family from Missouri west. Pretty good story too. He finished his story just before he had a stroke and a heart attack.
At first, this might sound like a sad story, but he was a happy man full of life right up to the end. When I get tired of the snow, or sad that my husband is no longer with me, or I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, I think of him. He was, and is, a role model for living life to the maximum no matter what.
As a long-term care ombudsman for the Area Agency on Aging of North Idaho, I’ve met hundreds of people who can no longer live independently. It’s our job to resolve problems and to see that the residents have a quality life as well as quality care. The residents of long term care deserve our attention and respect. There is expertise, experience and wisdom within those elders, like there was in my friend, even when it’s hidden by infirmity.
The role of the ombudsmen is to visit each and every community in our area to ensure the residents are being properly cared for and their concerns are heard. If there are issues, the resident or their family member can bring it to the attention of the ombudsman during a visit or by calling 208-667-3179.
by Jan Noyes, Volunteer Ombudsman
Jan Noyes holds a degree in education and has used her teaching skills in public schools, adult education , workshops and seminars for church and civic groups, and corporations. Jan has been an ombudsman with the Area Agency on Aging for ten years, recruiting and training new ombudsmen. Jan also acts as an ombudsman, visiting facilities and advocating for their resident rights, quality of care and quality of life.