Overview of the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program - Podcast Transcript

Recorded: August 29, 2012

Narration: Welcome to Fairfax County’s News to Use about Long-Term Care, the podcast that brings you consumer information and information on protecting the rights and quality of life of those living in nursing or assisted living facilities. 

I’m your host, Jim Person.

On today’s show, we will discuss the Northern Virginia Long-Term Ombudsman Program and what this program does to protect the rights and quality life of people who receive long-term care either in nursing or assisted living facilities or through home health care.

Opening Music: 

Part 1 

Jim: Joining me today is Kathy Jones, an Ombudsman with the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Welcome, Kathy. 

Kathy: Hi, Jim. Thanks for having me. 

Jim: Om-buds-man – am I pronouncing that correctly? 

Kathy:  Very good, Jim. A lot of people have difficulty with it. An Ombudsman is one who investigates, reports and helps settle concerns. The Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for residents of nursing facilities and assisted living facilities when they have a complaint about their care or if they feel that that facility staff has not respected their rights. We then work with the resident, or the resident’s family and the facility to resolve the complaint.

Another of our major activities is providing training and consultation to facility staff so they so they can better understand resident rights and quality of care guidelines. 

Jim: I see, so you are working both ends – you get involved when there is a dispute but also provide the education to prevent issues from arising. 

Kathy: Exactly, Jim. Our third major activity is providing information on local facilities so consumers can make an informed choice. Any interested parties are welcome to call us at 703-324-5861 or visit our Web page at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/LTCOmbudsman for consumer information. 

Jim: So, if I were considering nursing homes for my mother, what kind of information would you provide me about area nursing facilities? 

Kathy: Well, Jim, the Ombudsman program makes regular unannounced facility visits to assisted living and nursing facilities to observe what is going on and speak with residents about their care.  A case could be opened as a result of the facility visit, or from someone with concerns.

Jim: I see. And your program covers the entire Northern Virginia region, is that correct? 

Kathy: Yes it does, Jim. We cover the jurisdictions of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William. There are 33 nursing homes and 86 assisted living facilitiesin Northern Virginia serving approximately 11,204 residents.

Jim: OK, let’s get back to the issue of Resident Rights and quality of care. Where do these rights and guidelines of care come from?

Kathy: The short story is they are mandated by the federal government.The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program was mandated under Title VII of the Older Americans Act of 1978. Then in 1987, the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act mandated that every state have a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. It also specified that nursing facilities and assisted living facilities must "promote and protect the rights of each resident" and provide care necessary "to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial, well-being." 

Jim: OK – I want to discuss with you these well-being or quality of care standards a bit later but, first, tell me about Resident Rights.

Kathy: Sure – I happen to have our brochure with me and as you can see the Resident’s Rights are the central part – again these are federally protected rights. One example is "Be free from mental and physical abuse and from unauthorized chemical and physical constraints." 

An example of chemical restraints is giving a resident a sedative to keep them quiet.  An example of a physical restraint is if a resident’s wheelchair is taken away, thus limiting their movement.

It is surprising how many calls we get on this subject.

There are some interesting articles on using medication as a chemical restraint in our bimonthly newsletter that is posted on our website:  www.fairfaxcounty.gov/LTCOmbudsman/newsletter_e.htm.

Another important right is participating in planning your care and treatment.  Residents have the right to attend care plan meetings and to have a say in their treatment.

Jim: And can people find a listing of these rights on your Web page? 

Kathy: Yes, they can, Jim.  And they can see them in our brochures which we distribute to residents and facility staff, as well as at community presentations.  We are also happy to discuss Resident Rights with people on the phone. When the Volunteer Ombudsmen visit a facility, they also hand out brochures with Resident’s Rights on them.

Jim: You said earlier that nursing facilities have to maintain thehighest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial, well-being. Can you give me some specific examples of what that means?

Kathy: Residents should have the opportunity to take part in activities that will provide social interaction and stimulation.  This can be done at the facility by having group games or it can also be accomplished by having trips outside the facility that would provide enrichment to their lives.  This allows a quality of life activity that is beyond Bingo. 

Break: Thank you Kathy; let’s take a quick break.  Stay tuned! When we come back, we’ll discuss how the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program handles concerns from residents or their interested parties.

Transition: Sound Effect 

Part 2 

Jim: We are back. This is Jim Person and I am talking to Kathy Jones of the Northern Virginia Long-Term Ombudsman Office. Kathy, you’ve told us that your organization represents long-term care residents regarding concerns with facilities and quality of care and rights.  I know we’ve scheduled another podcast just on Resident Rights, but tell us about the process when someone calls with concerns about their food, for example.  Walk us through what a resident or family member needs to do when they have a concern like this.

Kathy: When someone calls the Ombudsman Program about a concern, the first step is that the Ombudsman will offer recommendations on how the resident or family member could work with the facility staff about taking care of an issue.  For example, if it is about the food, the administrator or facility staff can be approached about specific changes. 

If they are still not satisfied, they can contact us and request a formal investigation.  Our information is provided at admission to new residents so they know how to reach us and we reinforce that by handing out brochures during our facility visits.

If they want to open a case, the Ombudsman would send a Waiver of Confidentiality to the person with the concern.  The Waiver of Confidentiality allows us to review the medical records and interview staff related to the resident’s care.  When the resident or their decision maker signs the waiver and sends it back to us, the Director of the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program reviews the details of the case.  If it meets the guidelines for a case, an Ombudsman is assigned to it. Then the Ombudsman could go out to the facility and meet with the resident and with the administrator to resolve the issue.  In some cases, the Ombudsman will need to make phone calls to other agencies to investigate the concerns thoroughly.  We can also look at systemic issues that are affecting the entire facility.

Jim: Are you generally able to find a resolution that satisfies the resident and family?

Kathy: In many cases we are but sometimes we are not able to work a resolution that satisfies the person who contacted us.  Sometimes, an issue becomes so wide-spread that new legislation is enacted to offer additional protection to residents. A recent example of new legislation is the Right to Readmission of residents who leave the facility for a hospital stay and want to be assured that a bed will be available when they return.

Jim: I have so many more questions but we need to wrap this podcast up. Fortunately, we have scheduled additional podcasts with the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. One will explore further Resident Rights; another will provide information on what to look for in a nursing facility or an assisted living facility and another will discuss the Volunteer Ombudsman program.

Kathy: Let me chime in there, Jim. We could not do our job without our wonderful volunteers. Because they require a good deal of training, we only recruit once a year, usually during the end of the year and then we give a three-day training once a year. However we are happy to talk to people interested in volunteering anytime during the year. So please give us a call.

Jim: You took, the words right out of my mouth, Kathy. Whether you need long-term care information, to discuss a concern or to volunteer, you can reach the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at 703-324-5861; TTY 711.  Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can also visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/LTCOmbudsman.

Until we meet again, this is Jim Person for News to Use about Long Term Care.

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