Greeting every resident by their name, giving validity to every resident’s concerns, empowering every resident to speak up on their own behalf, Todd Elmer is the voice for every resident who cannot speak up for themselves during his weekly visits to the nursing home where he is assigned as the volunteer Ombudsman. Because of his compassion for promoting the rights of the residents, we are honored tonight to present Todd with the Louise Abrahams Yaffe Volunteer Ombudsman Program Award.
Todd read about the Volunteer Ombudsman Program in a recruitment article from the Board on Aging and Long Term Care posted in an AARP magazine, and he jokingly said during our interview that the magazine was his wife’s.
Todd is a long time Milwaukee resident, graduating in the 1970’s from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Social Work degree. He retired in 2008 from an expansive career with the Milwaukee County Behavior Health Division- Community Services Branch.
Todd said he felt a void a few years into his retirement, and missed working directly with people, helping people and making a difference in their lives.
Todd was trained and placed as the Volunteer Ombudsman at the largest nursing home located in Milwaukee. He made weekly resident centered visits until the facility was closed in 2014. Todd humbly says he advocated for every resident until the last light switch was turned off at the nursing home.
Todd has calm, stalwart skills in listening to residents and asking them, during his weekly visits, how they feel, how they like things and how they are treated. While observing resident/staff interactions he noticed that not all staff members were treating residents with the care and respect that they deserved. Todd’s persistence in relaying the residents’ concerns to the administration, as well as his own observations led to the facility staff remaining consistent and positive in their interactions and relationships with the residents during this time of change.
This effort by the staff lead to decreased labeling of residents as problematic and complainers and brought about a more patient and respectful resident care and treatment system. Todd’s tireless efforts in speaking with staff about taking care of residents’ concerns and observed behaviors led to staff taking these concerns more seriously and thus to an increased quality of life for the residents. Staff made sure to remedy concerns brought forth to help make the residents’ lives more comfortable, calmer, and nicer, especially the lives of those living in memory care and dementia units.
Todd worked closely with the Volunteer Coordinator, the Regional Ombudsman and the Relocation Ombudsman Specialist during the facility closure, ensuring that residents felt safe and confident those moving to a new home, which can cause fear and trauma, would be in their best interest.
Todd, after a brief sabbatical, was invited by the Volunteer Ombudsman Program and Ombudsman Program to return as our Volunteer. He did so with gusto by taking on two assigned nursing homes. Todd’s unwavering compassion and skills were again needed as reflected by his advocacy efforts in facilitating an intervention for a lonely resident. This resident was feeling hopeless during a critical health situation. Todd’s patience in listening to the resident and his diligence in working with the Ombudsman and the facility staff turned the resident’s feeling of hopelessness around resulting in the resident feeling supported and able to cope with a life and death situation.
Todd, who has survived a major personal health issue, enjoys working-out; he goes to the gym every day at 4:30am followed by a nap, which he says, smiling, “Is good!” Todd has one son, one daughter, six grandchildren, and his daughter’s Pitbull; named Bronx loves his “Grandpa”. Todd is here tonight with his wife of 46 years, Connie. Thank you on behalf of the residents that you have served and continue to serve as our Volunteer Ombudsman and congratulations to you, Todd, as the 2016 Louise Abrahams Yaffe Volunteer Ombudsman Program Award winner.