Volunteer Ombudsmen in this program make unannounced visits to designated long term care facilities on a weekly basis. During their weekly visits volunteers observe, listen to and interact with the residents. They observe general conditions of the facility, and keep a log of this data. Volunteers talk with the residents and families guiding them in the right direction to resolve issues. Volunteers listen to and assist the resident with issues that may include, but are not limited to personal hygiene, daily cares, diet/meal issues, comfort, activities, staff relationships, personal empowerment, and facility conditions.
Volunteer Ombudsmen work with residents and their family members to communicate concerns and complaints by providing support and empowerment. The Volunteer Ombudsman can assist residents by being their voice and with their permission work hand in hand with the facility staff to resolve issues. Volunteers also have an exit interview with a designated contact at the facility before leaving the facility after each visit. This is a time to talk about their observations, concerns residents have shared, and issues that have not been resolved. This discussion is included in the Volunteer's monthly report as well.
Another role of the Volunteer Ombudsman is to act as the "eyes and ears" of the Regional Ombudsman. Volunteer Ombudsmen complete monthly reports and complex issues are referred to the Regional Ombudsmen via the Volunteer Coordinator. These issues typically require professional complaint resolutions, and would include medical care, legal issues of guardianship, power of attorney, discharge/transfer rights, and mediating disputes.
The Volunteer Services Supervisor oversees the entire Volunteer Program and directly supervises all the Volunteer Coordinators around the state. The Volunteer Coordinators are located in Madison, Milwaukee, Stevens Point, La Crosse, and Green Bay.
The Volunteer Ombudsman Program currently operates in 26 counties. Since 1994, the program has expanded from the original 4 counties of Dane, Rock, Monroe, and Milwaukee to include Racine, Kenosha, Waupaca, Wood, Portage, Marathon, Lincoln, Shawano, Brown, Outagamie, Kewaunee, Winnebago, Door, Manitowoc, La Crosse, Vernon, Jackson, Trempealeau, Pepin, Buffalo, Columbia, and Sauk. We hope to continue expanding until the Volunteer Ombudsman Program is available in every county in the state.
The Volunteer Coordinators maintain contact with each volunteer through monthly reports, continuous regular training sessions, phone calls, e-mails and on site visitations.
Volunteers are thoroughly screened and undergo a criminal background check at the cost of the agency prior to attending the mandatory inititial 7 hour training. They are also required to attend periodic inservices on topics of interest that will enhance skills necessary for the volunteer position. Volunteers will need to provide their own transportation for visiting nursing homes and to attend trainings. Volunteers will adhere to the Board's policies and procedures for all aspects of the program including confidentiality, resident's rights, and the volunteer's conduct while representing the agency as a Volunteer Ombudsman. Being a Volunteer Ombudsman in this program is a privilege and really does make a difference in the lives of the people we serve and in the lives of the volunteers themselves.