How Can an Ombudsman Help You?

If you live in a long-term care or assisted living facility remember that the Ombudsman is your advocate to help in working out issues or concerns that arise.
I first met Jennifer, a fifty something year old woman last year. Jen reported injuring herself, a small cut, maybe a nick gardening or chopping veggies she wasn’t sure. The cut was small enough to be non-concerning and it healed soon enough that the event was long forgotten even though she noticed that she was feeling tired, having more difficulty getting her daily tasks done and had a low back pain that eventually became more pronounced until the day came when the pain necessitated a call to the doctor’s office. That doctor’s appointment and several others were unsuccessful in resolving the issue. By this time Jen was dragging her foot, having trouble with her knees giving way and a general weakness in her legs. The culprit was discovered and Jen was told that she has a significant infection with damage to her vertebral column and her life was in grave danger.

Jen called requesting assistance from the Ombudsman. She reported that she had been placed in the long-term care facility for care of wounds that she had developed from sitting too long. Jen requested the Ombudsman’s help in getting the one thing that the facility was unwilling to allow and the one thing that she believed would help her heal. Sparky is a 7.5 pound four-legged wonder worker for Jen’s body and spirit.

The nursing home told Jen that they would not allow Sparky, because they didn’t want staff to have to provide care for the dog, they were concerned that he might bite someone, and they didn’t want the animal waste on the facility grounds.

I determined that Sparky was a legitimate emotional support animal with a written script from her physician, and that he couldn’t bite anyone because he no longer has teeth. Jen and I formulated a plan to address all the facility concerns which included a prescription from her doctor documenting Sparky as an emotional support animal, bringing Sparky up-to-date with vaccinations and vet exam, formulating a plan for waste pick up, and a back-up for care not involving the staff if Jen was to become sick. The Ombudsman provided education to the facility about the Fair Housing Act, and the law as it pertains to assistance animals. Through the work of Jen and the Ombudsman any objections the facility might have had about Sparky were soon overcome; Sparky is now living with her at the facility. He is a big hit with the other resident’s and his presence has improved Jen’s outlook on life and speeded her recovery.

If you live in a long-term care or assisted living facility remember that the Ombudsman is your advocate to help in working out issues or concerns that arise. We stand by your side to give advice, express concerns or complaints, advise about rights, and help to connect you to resources.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Sandy Walker, Lead Ombudsman.
Sandy is an Ombudsman with the Region 10 Area Agency on Aging and may be reached at 970-765-3131 or by email at sandy@region10.net