CLEARFIELD – Gale K. Washic, a volunteer ombudsman with the Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging Inc. (CCAAA) since 2007, recently completed two specialized trainings with the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s State Long-Term Care (LTC) Ombudsman Office to enhance her advocacy skills to assist residents of Clearfield County.
According to Jeanne Urban, CCAAA staff ombudsman, ombudsmen are trained advocates for resident rights under federal and state law and are concerned with maintaining residents’ quality of life and quality of care. Volunteer ombudsmen serve as friendly visitors to Clearfield County’s four nursing, seven personal care homes, two older adult day cares, domiciliary care homes and within the community, building trust and a special rapport with residents. “Ombudsmen bring a wonderful blend of understanding, compassion, strength and wisdom to the assignments they are given,” Urban concluded.
Washic attended a three-day, Tier II ombudsman training in Brookville conducted by Regional Ombudsman Coordinator Jan Brown. Objectives of course were to:
- Increase the volunteer’s knowledge and skills in identifying, investigating and resolving concerns or complaints by or on behalf of LTC consumers.
- Increase the volunteer’s knowledge of the types, quantity and relevance of evidence necessary to complete an investigation.
- Understand the various legal levels of authority encountered by an ombudsman ranging from the informal through the formal.
- Identify ethical issues and processes utilized to deal with them.
- Refine the ombudsman’s communication skills to be applied to consumers, complainants, families, provider staff and regulatory officials.
- Develop awareness of various laws, procedures and policies protecting consumers experiencing abuse, neglect, financial exploitation or abandonment and how to report the incidents.
- Enhance interactive skills in working with regulatory agencies including procedures to make a formal case referral with consumer consent.
- Embrace the standard of confidentiality prescribed under the Ombudsman Program.
- Understand the approach Pennsylvania has adopted for its Ombudsman Program and endorse the philosophy of working cooperatively to further the quality of life for all LTC consumers.
Upon completion of the training, Washic was certified as a Tier II-trained ombudsman volunteer. She also completed a three-day PEER Train-the-Trainer Training class in October.
PEERs are Pennsylvania’s Empowered Expert Residents. The PEER Program provides a unique opportunity for residents of nursing and personal care homes to serve as advocates on resident rights, using lifetime skills that they have developed working with others. PEER trainers facilitate the 10-hour course, developed by the Pennsylvania State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Office. PEER training is broken down into five, two-hour sessions including:
- The Focus Is on You – understanding PEER and resident rights and working in partnership from within the facility to resolve issues before they become problems;
- Negotiating the Facility – comprehending the role of facility staff, regulatory agencies and ombudsmen, appreciating the safety net of applicable federal and state laws that protect the resident’s autonomy and becoming knowledgeable of the care plan process;
- Building Self-Resolution Skills – prioritizing the issues, climbing the ladder of resolution, developing an effective resident council and personalizing individual care;
- Respecting Confidentiality, Respecting Our Differences – learning confidentiality standards, safeguarding records and honoring cultural diversity.
- PEER Limits, The Sky’s the Limit – recognizing abuse, making a difference one individual at a time and fulfilling your potential.
Upon completion of the training, Washic was certified as a PEER trainer. Three LTC facilities are presently interested in receiving resident training: Christ the King Manor Nursing Home, Christ the King Manor Personal Care Home and Mountain Laurel Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
Washic recently retired as an LPN at Centre Crest Nursing Home in Bellefonte. She is the spouse of David Washic of Grassflat and has two daughters. She is also a certified EMT.
For more information on how to become an ombudsman, please contact Jeanne Urban at 814-765-2696 or toll free at 1-800-225-8571. Volunteers of all skill levels are welcome.