Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
May 25, 1999
ATLANTIC CITY -- Volunteers who last year spent more than 20,000 hours in nursing homes visiting residents and advocating on their behalf were honored today by Bonnie Kelly, Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly.
The 200 volunteers are participants in the Ombudsman's Volunteer Advocate Program, which started as a pilot project in 1993 and has since 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 Kelly. "They 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, 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 snow ball into major quality of life problems for residents. They also play an integral part in identification of possible abusive situations in facilities."
Persons interested in becoming a volunteer advocate are urged to call the Office of the Ombudsman at 609-588-3477.
Kelly 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 three non-profit 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, and Community Health Law Project, South Orange -- recruit, train and supervise volunteer advocates in four geographic regions.
The following volunteers received special recognition at today's event. Each was presented with the Trude Koerner Outstanding Volunteer Service Award, named in honor of one of the program's original volunteer advocates.
Region I -- Essex, Hudson, Morris and Union Counties
Sue Gorman, Rockaway, a volunteer at Lincoln Park Intermediate Care Center.
Region II -- Bergen, Hunterdon, Somerset, Passaic and Warren
Rosemarie Guarino, Wayne, a volunteer at Alps Manor Nursing Home in Wayne.
Region III -- Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean
Loretta Kresnosky, New Brunswick, a volunteer at Park Place-Genesis, Princeton.
Region IV -- Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem
Margaret Gilleland, Millville, a volunteer at the Nursing Center at Vineland.