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RI State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program: Advocating for Quality Care

An Ombudsman is someone who is concerned with protecting the civil and human rights of persons receiving long-term care services. Each state is required by federal law to have an Ombudsman program. Rhode Island has one that is centrally located in Warwick. Their services are always free of charge and all inquiries are held in strict confidence.

The Rhode Island State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (RISLTCOP) advocates for residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and those receiving hospice or licensed home care who have been victims of abuse, neglect, exploitation and/or misappropriation of property. Ombudsmen work to resolve problems these individuals face and affect change at the local, state, and national levels to improve quality of care.

The organization strives to be a compassionate voice for those who may not have anyone to advocate on their behalf. They also educate residents and their loved ones, letting them know they have rights and encouraging them to use their voice to self-advocate. Among the facilities they help include the residents of the RI Veteran’s Home and Eleanor Slater Hospital.

Kathleen Heren, the RI State Long Term Care Ombudsman, said their primary mission is resolving disputes objectively by investigating complaints brought forth by either the resident or their supporters.

“We help those who have simple questions about our services to those who believe their loved ones are being mistreated in a care facility setting,” she said. “Our office is located here in Warwick, but our services are available throughout the entire state. We solve problems while championing those who seek our help.”

Heren works along with her dedicated staff of nurses and social workers who are also certified Long Term Care Ombudsman. The Program, which is contracted through the Office of Healthy Aging is a federal program that began in 1972 as a demonstration project in a few states. It is now federally-mandated in all 50 states under the Older Americans Act that is administered by the Administration of Aging.

A Long Term Care Ombudsman has unique expertise and understanding of long-term care services. They offer an independent perspective and have direct, open lines of communication with residents in care facilities. Throughout history, Ombudsmen have built skillful coalitions and successfully negotiated agreements with numerous agencies and programs, and involved residents and families in developing their advocacy agenda.


Providing education to the consumer about the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program
Other Ombudsman responsibilities include:

  • Supplying the consumer advice in selecting a long-term care facility
  • Explaining residents’ rights and other federal and state laws and regulations affecting long term care residents and facilities
  • Attempting to resolve issues between residents’ families and facilities
  • Preparing guidance on Medicare and Medicaid coverage
  • Giving guidance on matters of powers of attorneys and advanced directives
  • Investigating complaints of inadequate staffing and medical services being provided to residents, such as medication, nutrition or personal hygiene
  • Representing residents in 30-Day Notice Hearings.

Ombudsman also serve on committees that develop and enact laws for long-term care residents and people with disabilities receiving long term care services.

RISLTCOP is located in the Alliance for Better Long Term Care building on 422 Post Road in Warwick. Although they are housed in the same office, the programs are separate entities. RISLTCOP is an employee of the Alliance for Better Long Term Care works all the time with the state Ombudsman. There is a Long-Term Care Ombudsman Advisory Board that works solely with the Ombudsman Program.

Long Term Care Ombudsman Lorrena Nardi said, “The Ombudsman Program is an excellent resource for any number of issues and concerns that occur in a long-term care setting. She notes providing information about long term care facilities, educating prospective residents and families on what to look for when choosing a facility as well as providing support to Resident and Family Councils are more ways they can help.

“We can also help to empower residents and families about their rights and having them report wrongdoing without the fear of retribution either from staff or other residents,” she added. “There are numerous ways we can offer assistance in what could be a stressful situation.”

RISLTCOP also seeks qualified individuals to become Certified Long Term Care Volunteer Ombudsman. Volunteers visit with residents in long term care facilities and advocate on their behalf. They help to get questions and concerns addressed regarding their care. Potential volunteers are carefully screened and undergo a training program before they are sent out into the field.

Heren said the rewards are many and go far beyond simply volunteering.

“People have a genuine sense of pride in helping others,” she said. “This past year-plus has drawn people together to face such adversity. We are here as a trusted resource for anyone who needs a hand. Our message is, ‘you are not alone.’”

Long Term Care Ombudsman and Volunteer Training Coordinator, Lori Light, said “Volunteers are a valuable part of our team. They are passionate about the care Rhode Island’s residents receive in our nursing and assisted living facilities.”  

Anyone looking to make a difference in the lives of long term care residents, you may email Lori at Lori@alliancebltc.org.

RISLTCOP is supported by federal funding, state grants through the Office of Healthy Aging and philanthropic giving through private donations, under the umbrella of the Alliance for Long Term Care.

For more information about these and other services the RISLTCOP provides, please call 401-785-3340 or toll free at 888-351-0807 or visit their website at www.risltcop.org.

“2 Painting Duel” Coming in July!

Those wanting to either spruce up their favorite room and/or invest in art should participate in the Machala Watercolor Studio’s “2 Painting Duel” happening throughout July on Facebook.

Last year, Owner Hollis Machala said she began this original sale to help more art lovers to be able to pick artwork that they liked best.

“The ‘2 Painting Duel’ is a fun way to duel to see which painting customers love the best,” she said. “You won’t know exactly what you get until the paintings are revealed on the dates they are purchased. However, customers may choose their favorite one based on a reference photo that is posted on my website, https://www.machalarts.com/2-painting-duel.”

This year, only has five dates are available to grab in July for $300. Those dates are the 14th, 16th, 21st, 23rd and 28th.

Clients have the option to give her a reference photo they would like as a painting. She then paints one painting of their photo and one that they purchase off the website. Then, the client selects which one they want to take home! A second option is purchasing the other painting for an additional $50.

While “The Duel” is already in motion, Machala said there are a few spots still available for the chance to find artwork that speaks more to a favorite memory and/or subject that Hollis herself paints.

As she put it, “I want to help more people find accessible art that speaks to them, because it is so important to enjoy your surroundings. This is also a great way to start to become a collector of art!”

 

The Duel is being broadcast on her FB Art Group called Watercolor Studio Insiders – Art by Hollis Machala. People can visit her website at: www.facebook.com/groups/machalarts

Additional details may also be found on her website referenced above or contacting Hollis at (508) 944-4410 or machalarts@gmail.com.

Respite Care in the Summertime

The Care Concierge of New England wants to help families place their loved ones in a safe environment. 

The next several months are considered fun for most people. School is out for students, families take vacations, camping of all types begin and baseball is in full swing.

It is also a good time to remember the potential issues that arise. Beaches will be overcrowded during hot stretches, people suffering from heat stroke and other hot-weather ailments, pets looking for cooler shelters and other hazards. This can be especially true for seniors, who may live alone and not always be thought of when it comes to constant care.

That’s where Paul Jones, Owner and Lead Concierge of The Care Concierge of New England, located in Slatersville, can help. His company aids families looking to transition their loved ones into senior care facilities throughout Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut. One of the ways of doing this is offering Respite Care options, where the guest says at a facility for up to 90 days and has all the amenities and privileges of a permanent resident.

Jones said this choice serves multiple purposes and gives everyone a chance to see what’s out there.

“As the Care Concierge, I help seniors and their families navigate the different senior care options to find the best quality of life,” he said. “Too many families still conflate ‘assisted living’ with ‘nursing home’, and worry that exploring senior care is like consigning their loved one to some kind of torture. The reality is that the assisted living industry focuses on comfort and life enrichment. By taking advantage of a respite stay, my hope is that seniors can dispel some of the myths they may be holding onto regarding senior care, and stay safe through the summer heat in the bargain!”

Jones added that seniors are just as vulnerable during the summer as they would be during the winter holidays. Many people are more cognizant of their parents and loved ones during Thanksgiving and Christmas because of the potential for them not having heat in their homes. With summer, it’s not as obvious. Jones likened it to leaving small pets or children in a car. Vehicles can get hot inside fast and creating dangerous situations in the process. The same thing could happen with the elderly in their own homes before anyone realizes something is wrong.

As for helping those who may be “at risk”, Jones said this opportunity could clear up misconceptions about care.

Respite programs began as a way for seniors to assess the assisted living experience. This was a natural response to people being unclear about what assisted living was and how it differed from nursing homes. Assisted living as an industry is still relatively young — most of the large companies trace their roots back to the 1990s or early 2000s — and the irony is the people who are now age-appropriate for assisted living only ever had nursing homes to rely on for their own older loved ones.

“It makes sense that people who are in their 70s-90s today would have very limited knowledge about assisted living, so giving those seniors an opportunity to make a trial run as a resident is smart business sense.

“Beyond that, there’s a genuine component of altruism and safety in offering respite stays,” Jones continues. “In the winter, there are commercials and articles and reminders frequently to check on elderly neighbors and loved ones who may be without heat. It sometimes feels taken for granted that the summer heat can be just as dangerous for isolated seniors. Respite stays in the summer are a good and easy way for seniors to retain their homes and try an assisted living environment for the summer — and to enjoy all that entails being a permanent resident. Meals prepared for them, housekeeping done for them, leisure activities planned for them … assisted living can feel like a summer-long cruise for seniors, without ever leaving land!

Almost every assisted living community offers respite programs for interested seniors. A community may have a cap on how many apartments they reserve for respite stays, but part of the Care Concierge services is to help you secure a great respite apartment.

A respite apartment is easily accessible — as close to ‘plug and play’ as it gets in the senior care world, Jones said. A senior registers for either a 30- 60- or 90-day stay in an apartment, which is already furnished by the community. They bring whatever clothes, personal effects, etc., that they want and decorate the apartment as they desire. If a resident needs care services while they’re on the respite stay, they can receive those care services (these are typically related to Activities of Daily Living such as grooming, shopping, medication management, etc.). Residents are free to enjoy the on-site restaurant three times a day and participate in as many of the leisure activities as they would like. Housekeeping is provided, and laundry may be provided for a nominal fee.

There is a (privately paid) daily cost associated with a respite stay, but that is different from community to community. Sometimes these costs may be negotiated by someone like the Care Concierge, and sometimes they are fixed.

For more information about The Care Concierge of New England and their variety of services, please contact Paul Jones at 401-488-4935 or email at paul@careconciergeNE.com.

Devereux MA/RI clinician shares remote learning tips during Department of Revenue presentation

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Massachusetts and Rhode Island Therapeutic Day School Clinician Jessica Kemp, Ph.D., NCSP, recently offered tips to help parents engage children in remote instruction during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Diversity Council.

Kemp was asked to participate in the presentation as a result of her experience helping students, families and caregivers embrace online learning during COVID-19.

“I want to thank the Department of Revenue for the opportunity to participate in this panel discussion,” said Kemp. “I have been hearing from many students and families that they are ‘running on empty.’ I hope this presentation provided validation that they are not in this alone, and offered some go-to tips they can use to ‘reboot’ and more effectively manage some of the stressors associated with learning and working from home.”

Staying focused, motivated

During the presentation, Kemp shared the following strategies to help students stay focused and motivated to complete their schoolwork:

  • Adjust expectations: Recognize that during the traditional, in-person school day, students are not working 100 percent of the time – this also applies to remote learning.
  • Use “first-then” statements: Motivate children to complete tasks by using statements such as, “First, finish your math class, and then, we can make snacks together and play a game.” Or, “First, finish your reading assignment, and then you can use your tablet.”
  • Identify roadblocks: Determine what is preventing a student from completing a task. Are they having trouble understanding a new skill? Are they bored? Do they need to move around?
  • Encourage fidgeting: Provide children with putty, playdough or a squishy ball to help them relieve stress or anxiety.
  • Set timers: Let students see how much time they have left in class or to complete work.
  • Take breaks: Take at least three “brain breaks” per day (e.g., go for a walk; draw/color; play a game) with your child, and encourage him or her to ask for a break, if needed.
  • Create a fun, relaxed atmosphere: Help students update their at-home classroom space with items such as aromatherapy diffusers, fun pens, colorful sticky notes or a poster to make the area more inviting.

Facilitating student success

Kemp also discussed ways to promote socialization, while social distancing; cope with changes in school schedules; set boundaries; manage stress; support youth with special needs; and help students adapt to appearing on camera.

“I have always been passionate about capacity building. As a school psychologist, I am often focused on how I can best support families and caregivers, as they are the ones with the children a majority of the time,” Kemp explained. “My goal is to not only build skills with individual students, but to help families establish routines and systems that they can integrate into their daily lives to facilitate their students’ success.”

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.

Photo caption 1: Devereux Massachusetts and Rhode Island Therapeutic Day School Clinician Jessica Kemp, Ph.D., NCSP, recently offered tips to help parents engage children in remote instruction during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s Diversity Council.

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