News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   June 27, 2001

Christine Grant

For Further Information Contact:
DHSS, Dennis McGowan


Governor Proclaims Long Term Care Ombudsmans Day
Volunteer Advocates Honored for Service

TRENTON - To honor volunteers who last year spent more than 50,000 hours in nursing homes visiting residents and advocating on their behalf, acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco has proclaimed June 27th as Long Term Care Ombudsman Day.

The 250 volunteers are participants in the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly's Volunteer Advocate Program, which started as a pilot project in 1993 and has since been expanded statewide. After completing 32 hours of training in communication, observation and trouble-shooting skills, the advocates visit nursing facilities near their homes a minimum of four hours each week and address resident concerns on such issues as living conditions, daily activities and quality of care.

Volunteer advocates complement the investigative functions of the Ombudsman's Office, which is charged with the responsibility of looking into allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation of residents 60 years of age and older who reside in nursing homes, residential health care facilities and Class "C" boarding homes.

"Advocates serve as our eyes and ears in nursing facilities and have had a tremendous impact in preserving, protecting and promoting the health, safety and welfare of New Jersey's institutionalized elderly," said Ombudsman William P. Isele. "The volunteers know the facilities and the residents - they know what's normal and appropriate, what needs to be changed and when to take a complaint to the next level."

"We have a very good track record in New Jersey of tough regulations, and high standards and quality of care for residents," the Ombudsman said. "Our volunteer advocates are in facilities working pro-actively to make sure that minor complaints don't develop into major quality of life problems for residents. They also play an integral part in identification of possible abusive situations that my office then follows-up on."

Persons interested in becoming a volunteer advocate are urged to call the Office of the Ombudsman at 609-943-4022.

Isele said most of the time problems identified by volunteer advocates can be worked out quickly with nursing home administration and staff. But, in cases of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation, or in cases where a volunteer feels a facility has not responded to a complaint appropriately, the volunteer files a complaint with the Ombudsman. That office, the Department of Health and Senior Services, and other appropriate agencies get involved to ensure resident well-being and to bring the facility into compliance with regulations and law.

The Volunteer Advocate Program is administered locally by four service provider organizations with experience in nursing home advocacy and community-based volunteer programs. These organizations - Senior Services, Inc., Orange; Family and Social Services Federation of Bergen County, Hackensack; Community Health Law Project, South Orange; and Kennedy Memorial Hospitals, Camden - recruit, train and supervise the volunteer advocates.


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