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Pictured is Mary Sellers, Family Caregiver Program Manager & Guardianship Program Manager for Upper Shore Aging, talking with a family member about services. Upper Shore Aging is currently seeking a manager for its Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. The ombudsman investigates and advocates to resolve complaints from residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

Upper Shore Aging Seeks Ombudsman to Advocate for Mid-Shore Seniors

OCTOBER 28, 2022

Advocating for a senior or learning to navigate the world of home care, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home can be a daunting task. Upper Shore Aging (USA) offers several programs in Caroline, Kent, and Talbot counties to assist individuals and families protect the safety, welfare, and rights of seniors. One of the programs that the organization is currently seeking a manager for is its Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. The ombudsman investigates and advocates to resolve complaints from residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“Our Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program plays such an important role in being the eyes and ears for our senior population and people of all ages, who may be experiencing issues in an assisted living facility or nursing home.  The ombudsman in the county is the advocate for people in helping them resolve their complaints, but also develops relationships with these facilities to improve the quality of life for residents there,” states Andy Hollis, Executive Director of USA. 

“Recently, we have had to rely on the State’s representatives to oversee this role because we have not had this position filled locally. While the State has provided excellent support, residents on the Mid-Shore need to have an advocate locally who can work with these facilities regularly to address concerns and issues as they develop.”

According to Stevanne Ellis, State Long-Term Care Ombudsman for the Maryland Department of Aging, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is a program under the Older Americans Act.  

“Whether you are in a nursing home for short-term rehabilitation or a longer stay, the ombudsman in the county is the advocate for that person. The ombudsman provides a minimum of monthly nursing home visits and quarterly assisted living visits. The ombudsman also responds to any complaints or requests between these visits. We have more than 1800 assisted living facilities and 227 nursing homes,” Ellis states.

“During these visits, we go and see how the resident is doing and what life is like for them. We want the resident to know that if he or she has a complaint, then we can help resolve the complaint to their satisfaction. Complaints can range everything from issues related to the building to hands-on care to staffing to cold coffee to physical and emotional abuse. We are also available to help people navigate the long-term care system, which can be complicated and confusing at times.”

She adds, “There are some facilities that they see us as a big help. We are focused on the same thing – that their residents are happy, receiving good care, and want to stay in the facility. That's what we advocate for.”

In getting issues resolved, the ombudsman’s goal is first to empower residents – to help them figure out how to take care of their issues first. And if this is not successful, the ombudsman can go with residents to address concerns or get permission to talk to facilities without the resident being present. The majority of complaints are initiated by residents and residents’ families; however, friends, family, physicians, and ministers also can make complaints on behalf of the resident.

The Ombudsman Program Manager position provides leadership and direction for the Ombudsman Program, overseeing operations, fiscal performance, and effectiveness of the program.  In addition to investigating and resolving resident complaints, the ombudsman provides educational training and information presentations to residents, staff, and members of the community on resident rights, services available, and good health and safety practices.

“The position requires someone who cares about residents and genuinely has a passion for helping people in long-term care and helping families. I think the ombudsman job is a prestigious thing because it's a form of social justice. By making the world a better place, you're going to have the satisfaction that you truly made a difference in the quality of life for someone,” comments Ellis.

Other qualities of an ombudsman include an interest to learn new things, experience in health care or working with the aging community, a mediation background, strong community relations skills, and experience with volunteer recruitment and retention. Preferred qualifications for the position include a bachelor’s degree in human services, social work, or nursing and five to eight years of working with the elderly population providing case management.

The Department of Aging offers a comprehensive Ombudsman Training Program and there are mentors available to support the local ombudsman from the State.

Mary Sellers, Family Caregiver Program Manager & Guardianship Program Manager for USA sees the Ombudsman Program as an extension of her work in assisting individuals and families to keep seniors in their own homes or helping them when a family member has been discharged from a nursing home. She states, “My programs help connect seniors and families to community resources when they are living independently. The Family Caregiver Program is preventive service to connect families to community resources to help keep them in their own homes or help them when a family member has been discharged from a nursing home.”

“Through our Family Caregiver Program, Guardianship Program, and Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, our hope is we can also offer families important information about resources ahead of time, before they need it for a loved one, and to ensure seniors get the best care in whatever situation they find themselves,“ Hollis adds.

For further information about applying for the Ombudsman Program Manager position, contact Andy Hollis at (410) 778-6000. For further information, visit uppershoreaging.org.

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Pictured is Gil Slagle of Worton, an RSVP volunteer, who helps to run the Upper Shore Aging Senior Care Farmer’s Market, held at the Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center in Chestertown. RSVP, launched in 2021, recruits and places older adults (age 55+) in a diverse range of volunteer activities to meet various community needs on the Mid-Shore.

Upper Shore Aging’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Seeks Volunteers and Volunteer Stations

AUGUST 8, 2022

Volunteering has never been easier!  Upper Shore Aging’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), sponsored by Upper Shore Aging, Inc. (USA) and funded by AmeriCorps, spans three counties on the Upper Eastern Shore of Maryland: Kent, Talbot, and Caroline. RSVP, launched in 2021, recruits and places older adults (age 55+) in a diverse range of volunteer activities to meet various community needs. 

Mavis Jones joined the program in August 2021 as the Kent County Project Coordinator for Upper Shore Aging’s RSVP. She states, “My job is to recruit and place senior volunteers over the age of 55 to work with nonprofit organizations that are willing to host a senior volunteer. These nonprofits partner with USA to become a volunteer station, signing a Memorandum of Understanding which outlines the organization’s responsibilities. 

Currently, in Kent County, these organizations include the Chester River Hospital Center Auxiliary, Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center, Meals on Wheels, Kent Association of Riding Therapy (KART), Eastern Shore Rabbit Rescue and Education Center, Main Street Rock Hall, AARP Tax-Aide of the Mid-Shore, and Upper Shore Aging. Adds Jones, “I am also looking to build relationships with any organization that wants to host senior volunteers so that we can expand the volunteer opportunities available.”

Upper Shore Aging’s website for RSVP, volunteersontheshore.org is a centralized place for anyone seeking a volunteer opportunity in Kent, Caroline, or Talbot counties. The site includes information on the enrollment process and a listing under each county of volunteer opportunities. 

That is how volunteer Gil Slagle of Worton found the site in May while looking for places to volunteer. Slagle, who volunteers at the Farmer’s Market held at the Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center, recently returned to the area after retiring from a career with Southern States and cooperative agriculture and living in North Carolina. 

“I was born and raised in Kent County and was looking for a way to give back. I got on the Internet and searched for volunteer opportunities and this program came up,” he states.

“I enjoy interacting with the seniors coming through the Farmers Market and helping them with their produce. I am interested in doing additional volunteering with the Chester River Hospital Center Auxiliary.”

In addition to the Amy Lynn Ferris Adult Activity Center, volunteers can work at several other locations, including the Eastern Shore Rabbit Rescue and Education Center in Rock Hall. Here they can feed and groom the bunnies, clean cages, and provide rotational play time in a large pen. At the University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown, volunteers can assist nurses and other hospital staff by performing messenger duties, patient, and specimen transportation, and conducting COVID screening of visitors.

Jones adds that RSVP is always looking for new organizations to place volunteers with so that the program can get volunteers in the right places right off the bat.

“The benefits of the RSVP are that I can screen them to determine what might be a good fit for their volunteer service and help them navigate getting connected to that organization. This can be a real timesaver as there are a lot of nonprofits in Kent County. Our volunteers also become part of a network of volunteers,” Jones comments.

“This program serves a dual purpose. It's not only giving the senior volunteer a meaningful volunteer experience that suits them, it’s serving the needs of the organization, which also means meeting critical community needs.”

Some of the advantages of being an RSVP volunteer are that the volunteers are covered under a supplemental accident and liability insurance policy, they can get meal and mileage reimbursement, and they receive volunteer recognition and ongoing support.

Currently, there are between 25 and 30 people in the program and the average age of RSVP volunteers is in the 60s. Jones schedules each volunteer commitment based on the terms of the volunteer. 

“I'm finding with senior volunteers that they want flexibility - some just want a few hours at a time and others want to give more of their time.  The majority probably also want to do something different from what they've done in their careers. 

Upper Shore Aging serves Kent, Talbot, and Caroline counties, so the RSVP has coordinators like Jones in each of the counties to help match volunteers to services. Volunteer service opportunities are as diverse as the communities in which volunteers serve and can include areas such as delivering meals to the homebound, offering to transport a senior to an appointment, helping with a home repair, socializing with a senior in person or by phone, teaching or leading an activity at a Senior Center, assisting with tax preparation, or offering legal aid, helping with a community garden, packaging and distributing food at a food pantry, tutoring or mentoring a child, supporting a child in school or during a summer program, or working with developmentally disabled children or adults.

In Kent County, RSVP is looking for volunteers to help with the senior care programs, senior reassurance phone calling, answering phones, making calls, and greeting visitors at Upper Shore Aging’s office, as well as engaging seniors in an activity at the Senior Center.

“Anyone with crafting abilities, health promotion skills, or any kind of special talent is welcome to come to offer that to our seniors,” Jones adds.

Jones, a retired public health nurse took this volunteer coordinator position because she was not ready to stop working completely herself. “I love working with the volunteers – just the whole networking part of this. I still think that we have not tapped into the growing number of volunteers out there who want to volunteer but just haven't pulled the trigger yet,” she states.

“We have got a lot of organizations doing a lot of good things, but they are sort of operating in silos. I like the idea of trying to bring people together to serve the needs of the county. For organizations that become a part of RSVP, they become aware of some other organizations that are doing something similar so that they can coordinate services.”

According to Andy Hollis, Executive Director of Upper Shore Aging, “We are currently looking for people to serve as project coordinators in Caroline and Talbot counties. It’s a great opportunity for someone who is connected to their community. We are not only looking for volunteers in each county for this program, but we are also looking at developing new relationships with volunteer organizations to serve as volunteer stations.”

To volunteer or to become a volunteer station in Kent County, call Mavis Jones at 410-708-6610. If you are interested in applying for a position as a project coordinator for the RSVP, contact Andy Hollis at (410) 778-6000. For further information, visit volunteersontheshore.org.