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Watchful Advocates

Welcome to the August edition of Aging and Still Engaging. The content of this month’s column has been provided by Karen Jones, executive director of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Services of San Luis Obispo County (LTC). Today’s column focuses on the local agency we can turn to for guidance and support when it comes to finding the right residential facility for the placement of loved ones in need.

Since 1978, LTC of SLO County has provided residents of care facilities (skilled nursing and residential facilities for the elderly) with a broad range of services, including advocacy, complaint investigation/resolution, facility monitoring visits, health care directives, information/referral and education.  Ombudsman services are part of a national effort to promote the highest possible quality of life and care. There is a similar program available throughout California and in every state.

In San Luis Obispo County, the Ombudsman program provides services to 3,000 care facility residents each year. In 2016, the program investigated and resolved 821 complaints and provided 2,700 facility monitoring visits utilizing 15 volunteers and 3 staff persons. The program also receives more than 300 calls per year from persons requesting information about long-term care. Frequent requests for information come from families looking to place a loved one in a residential facility. The pressure to find the perfect place is overwhelming. Our best advice is to give up on the notion that there will be a perfect place. Every facility has good and bad days as well as strengths and weaknesses. The perfect place is the one that best fits what your potential resident needs after doing a lot of research.

To start, there is a list of local care facilities available at Ombudsmanslo.org. The facility list can also be obtained at the Ombudsman office or by fax, email or regular mail by calling the Ombudsman office. Once the list is in hand, we recommend calling the facilities that are closest to friends and family. When you have narrowed down the list of potential facility options, visit the facility several times. The facility should be clean and free of tripping hazards, such as throw rugs. In addition, residents at the facility should appear well groomed with clean clothing that is appropriate for the season. Watch how the staff persons address the residents. Does the staff make eye contact and greet them by name, or do they avert their eyes and try to avoid the residents?  The facility should also smell like a home and not like air freshener.

After you have found two or more facilities that appear to meet your requirements, visit the Ombudsman program to check the facility’s licensing compliance history. The program maintains public licensing reports for each facility in San Luis Obispo County. The Ombudsman office is located at 3232 South Higuera Street, Suite 101B, San Luis Obispo (next to Social Security).  After placement, the Ombudsman program is available to answer questions, investigate problems, and work to resolve any issues that may arise. All Ombudsman services are confidential and free of charge. For more information about long term care facilities, or to become an Ombudsman volunteer, please contact the Ombudsman program at (805) 785-0132.

The San Luis Obispo County Commission on Aging invites the public to join them at the Veteran’s Hall on Grand Ave. in San Luis Obispo on Friday, August 18 from 10 a.m. – Noon. Attendees will learn about Peoples Self Help Housing (PSHH), one of SLO County’s affordable senior housing solutions, as presented by PSHH Service Coordinator Brittany Venia and Jane Renahan of the Duncan Group. For more information about the Commission on Aging, visit www.slocounty.ca.gov/coa.htm, or call 235-5779.

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