Advocating for area seniors

Watching out for the rights of folks who live in nursing homes and similar residential settings is a major focus for Kim Flanigan and her staff in the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program at Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District and Area Agency on Aging District 8. But Flanigan notes that the program can also help some people transition out of rehabilitation facilities and move back into their own homes. The ombudsman program serves Athens, Hocking, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Perry and Washington Counties.

Q: How long have you worked with the Long Term Ombudsman Program?

A: I’ve been with Buckeye Hills since 2006, but have worked in the area of social services since 1978. I started out as an activities director for a nursing home in Parkersburg, then worked 14 years with the Wood County Senior Citizens Services.

Q: Why did you choose to work with seniors and nursing homes?

A: It’s kind of a passion. I work with a staff of three people here, and we’re all pretty passionate about people’s rights-helping to provide a voice for people who may not be able to speak for themselves.

Q: What is the purpose of the Long Term Ombudsman Program?

A: We advocate for the rights of people in nursing homes and residential facilities, trying to resolve individual concerns that may exist between the consumers and providers. We also advocate for those rights on a state and federal level, although we’re not a regulatory agency. And we work with 23 nursing homes throughout the region.

Q: What changes are you seeing in the long term care industry?

A: Most are positive. For example there’s a nationwide effort toward person-centered care, focusing on making people feel at home if they’re in a nursing home or rehabilitation facility. We’re going back to more of a home model instead of a medical-based setting, although I don’t think we’re all the way there yet. Still, people should feel at home wherever they are.

Q: You also work with the Home Choice program of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services?

A: Through Home Choice we’re trying to get people out of nursing homes and back into their communities. Most people will tell you they want to live at home. I think with the “baby-boomer” generation we’ll probably see more people going into nursing facilities for rehabilitation, but with the intention of returning home afterward.

It’s not always possible for people to return to their home setting after rehab, but at least the Home Choice program provides an opportunity for assessment to see if it’s possible for them to live at home.

Q: Does anyone qualify for Home Choice?

A: They have to be Medicaid eligible. Transition services are provided to help find qualified housing and assistance with purchasing furnishings, groceries and other start-up costs. And each qualified person can receive up to $2,000 to help pay rent and deposits.

Q: You seem to do a lot with a staff of three.

A: We’re really a team in the ombudsman program, but we also have volunteers who help out every month. We currenty have five volunteers-two are from Washington County. And we always welcome more volunteers. It’s an opportunity for them to learn new skills and help others. Most people find it very rewarding.

We ask for a flexible two to four hour commitment each month, and we provide 14 hours training. Then they’re assigned to work with one of the regional long term care providers or to other areas. Anyone interested can contact our office at (740)376-7650.