Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program UPDATE Newsletter

Volume 7     Issue 6    December, 2013

 In this issue:   

  A Holiday Remembrance: Laura Nichols and her Granddad

  Glaucoma Awareness Month

  Preventing Nursing Home Discharges for Non-Payment

  Are You Managing Someone Else’s Money?

  Study Shows Adult Day Health Care Benefits Participants & Caregivers Alike

  Volunteer Ombudsman Spotlight


A Holiday Remembrance: Laura Nichols and her Granddad

During the holidays we often remember the precious older people in our lives that are no longer with us.  Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Director, Laura Nichols, remembers her grandfather fondly. She shares her memories below.  

My Granddad was the most influential man of my childhood and I would not be who I am today without his support and gentle guidance. 

Granddad was born and died in Savannah, Mo – a small farming town.  He and my grandmom were leaders in their church and community, and successfully ran a large farm. Granddad was the backbone of my mother’s side of the family.

Though he only made it to the 8th grade, Granddad always stressed the importance of education. He encouraged all of his grandchildren equally, and never told us that gender defined our role or defined our future.

I used to stay overnight at my grandparent’s house as much as I was allowed to and looked forward to our time together.  Part of our ritual was eating dessert together which was always vanilla ice cream and cookies.

Later in life, after Grandmom died, Granddad needed help and had a live-in helper.  He had always been very independent and didn’t want to rely on others.  He eventually got to a point that the family had to take his car keys away.  Since he no longer had access to his car, Granddad started driving his tractor around instead. So, we had to take the keys to the tractor away, too.    

Towards the end of his 89 years he lived in a small nursing facility.  He was the perfect resident until someone tried to steal his dessert.  You never know what becomes important to someone in a facility – but dessert was it for Granddad.  And so, my mild, honorable, gentle Granddad punched that person in the face.  Staff learned to make sure that Granddad had his dessert at each meal.   That was the one and only incident that took place during his entire stay at the facility.

The photo was taken the last time I saw Granddad.  I keep it on my desk to honor him and to remind me that all residents are individuals that have a life story and have loved and been loved.  All residents deserve to be honored and treated with the dignity and respect that I wanted for my Granddad.


Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. According to the National Institute of Health, Glaucoma comes from increased fluid pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve and diminishes your peripheral vision. Glaucoma is something that you may not notice until it is advanced.  The only way to detect serious eye diseases  before they cause vision loss or blindness is through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Your eye care professional will put drops in your eyes to enlarge, or dilate, the pupils and then look for signs of disease. Having regular comprehensive eye care gives your doctor a chance to identify a problem very early on and then treat it. Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers or surgery. If not treated, however, it can lead to vision loss and blindness.

You cannot prevent all age-related changes to your eyes. However, you can take steps to protect your vision and reduce your risk for serious eye disease in the future. Effective treatments are now available for many disorders that may lead to blindness or visual impairment.

NIH reports that many of the healthy behaviors that help reduce your risk for long-term diseases, like heart disease and cancer, can also help to protect your eyesight. These behaviors include not smoking, eating a healthy diet and controlling conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Healthy living not only adds years to your life, but also protects your vision as you get older!


Preventing Nursing Home Discharges for Non-Payment

Non-payment of bills in a long-term care facility by residents is frequent, and it can lead to discharge. Being discharged from a facility can be devastating to residents and family members.  The good news is, facilities can assist residents in paying their bills in a timely manner before it leads to a significant past due balance and a discharge notice is issued.

There are several reasons why residents are prevented from paying their bills.  Some examples include:

  • Residents may no longer have capacity to manage their finances, thus forgetting to pay their bills, or mismanagement of funds
  • Their decision maker has not paid; maybe the person overlooked the payment, did not know where to send the check, might be misusing  the  resident's  funds, the person moved, became ill, or passed away
  • The Medicaid application was not submitted on time, or the application could not be processed because requested documents were not provided to the eligibility worker
  • The Medicaid application was denied, because the resident’s income is over the allowed amount

Non-payment of facility bills must be addressed immediately.  It is important, because it would help residents from owing thousands of dollars.  The process of addressing this issue can be as simple as the following:

  • Assess residents to see if they are still able to manage their finances
  • Assist the residents and/or family members with the Medicaid process
  • Be in close contact with the resident’s decision maker, when a balance is due and if there is no response from the decision maker, find out if there is another surrogate person to contact
  • If there are reasons to suspect financial exploitation, contact Adult Protective Services and Ombudsman
  • The key to addressing this issue immediately is to be proactive and have open communication with the resident and/or decision maker. 


Are You Managing Someone Else’s Money?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Office for Older Americans recently released four easy-to-understand booklets to help financial caregivers, called the Managing Someone Else’s Money guides.  If you are acting as an “agent” for someone, such as power of attorney, court-appointed guardian, trustee, or government benefit fiduciaries (Social Security representative payees and VA fiduciaries), these guides can be of help.  A fiduciary is anyone named to manage money or property for someone else.  The guides do not provide legal advice; it is recommended that you talk to a lawyer if you have questions about your duties since state laws vary.

There are four basic duties that apply to anyone managing someone else’s money.

  1. Act only in the person’s best interest
  2. Manage the person’s money and property carefully:  watch out for scams and financial exploitation
  3. Keep their money and property separate from yours or anyone else’s
  4. Keep good records

Each guide has important information about these duties and particular information for a power of attorney, a court-appointed guardian, a trustee, or a representative payee.  To download a free copy of the guide, go to

Since many elderly individuals may have some decline in cognitive or physical abilities, they can be particularly vulnerable for financial exploitation.  As they become more dependent on others, it increases the number of “helpers” that come in contact with them and raises the possibility of someone exerting undue influence on their decisions. 

Earlier this year, Virginia passed a new law that creates a criminal penalty for anyone who takes financial advantage of seniors.  It also states that it is a crime to financially exploit any mentally incapacitated adult.  If you are in the position of acting as an agent for someone else, it is important that you protect the senior’s interests and that you are aware of anyone who might exploit them.   If you notice that something is wrong or suspicious, talk to a trusted relative, a lawyer, the police, or Adult Protective Services.  For additional information, visit our website at and look in Resource Topics.


Study Shows Adult Day Health Care Benefits Participants & Caregivers Alike

When your loved one needs supervised care during the day, but you work or have other obligations, Adult Day Health Care is here for you! For more than 30 years, the Fairfax County Health Department’s professional staff has been caring for older adults and adults with disabilities who need supervision during the day due to changes in cognitive and/or physical function, yet wish to continue living at home. Ninety-three percent of family caregivers who responded to the annual ADHC satisfaction survey stated their loved ones benefited from the program. A recent study by Penn State University shows that the caregivers also benefit from the program because of reduced stress levels. Fairfax County caregivers were among those who participated in the university’s Daily Stress and Health Study of family caregivers, which was among the first research studies to demonstrate the positive impact of adult day services on caregivers by tracking stress hormone levels in caregivers’ saliva. Clinical results showed lower stress hormone levels in caregivers on the days their loved one attended adult day services when compared to the days they did not attend.  The research also showed that caregivers had fewer care-related stressors and more positive experiences on the days their loved ones attended adult day services, which had a positive effect on caregivers’ emotional well-being and reduced their risks for illness.

“It was very exciting for me to see scientific evidence about our program,” said Adult Day Health Care Program Manager Jennifer Robinson.  “This research confirms what we’ve been hearing all along from our caregivers.”

Adult day care staff members recognize that caregivers face an inordinate amount of stress when caring day in and day out for a loved one with impairments. High stress levels can cause anxiety, high blood pressure, chronic health problems, and other negative health effects. Adult Day Health Care offers peace of mind to participants and their caregivers alike.

Adult day care may be a good choice for you and your family.  A team of nurses, recreational therapists, and other highly trained staff provide affordable quality care, meaningful activities, opportunities to form new friendships, entertainment, meals, and other services at five licensed locations in Fairfax County, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Fees are determined by a daily sliding scale based on the participant’s income (and spouse’s income, if applicable).  Fairfax County employees receive a twenty percent discount.  To learn more about ADHC, visit or call 703-750-3316, TTY 711.

Arlington County:                                       

Phone: 703 228-5340                            

City of Alexandria:                                     

Phone: 703 746-5676                            

Loudoun County:                                      

Phone: 703 746-5676                             


Volunteer Ombudsman Spotlight: Roz Cohen

Rosalind (Roz) Cohen was born in Queens in New York City and lived there until she graduated from Queens College of City University of New York.  She and her brother beat the heat each summer by visiting their cousins who lived on a dairy farm in Connecticut.

Roz is a marine biologist who spent a decade in Woods Hole on Cape Cod, first as a graduate student, and then working for the National Marine Fisheries Service. She decided to switch directions from research to management and took a job in Vienna, Virginia, at the Department of Interior. She later worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Roz considers herself fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel for work, mostly to the U.S. coastal states, including Alaska. She’s also done a good deal of non-work travel and counts the Galapagos as her favorite spot.

Since retiring in 2006, Roz loves having time to pursue other interests. In addition to working as a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Volunteer, she volunteers in the Entomology Department at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. She loves folk music, especially from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, and enjoys playing guitar and singing. She also knits, read mysteries and classics, photographs nature, visits museums, and attends concerts, and theater.

Roz’s mother spent the last year and a half of her life in a nursing home in New York City. Roz says she was not happy with the care but her mother had family and friends to advocate for her. Roz met a number of older adults there who had no family members and she found this heartbreaking.

Roz learned about the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program while researching resources to help her mother. She took the Ombudsman training in September 2006.

Of her volunteer experience, Roz has this to say: “I love being able to resolve a problem for a resident and (hopefully) improve their quality of life in some small way. I’ve always had a hard time remembering names. Since I think it is so important to know the residents’ names, I really work hard to learn them. I can’t think of anything that I dislike about the work!  Of course it always makes me sad to learn of a resident’s death, especially the ones whom I’ve gotten to know well over the years.”

The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program thanks Roz for all of her hard work and dedication to the program over the past seven years!


The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is committed to a policy of nondiscrimination in all programs and services. To request reasonable accommodations or alternate formats, call 703-324-5861 (voice); 711 (TTY).

This publication has been created or produced by Fairfax County with financial assistance, in whole or in part, from the Administration on Aging and/or the Virginia Department for the Aging.

A Fairfax County, Va. publication. December 2013


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