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The role of an ombudsman: "It simply means speaking on behalf of someone."

Kathambari Ramkumar

Treaka Young was elected last month to the Jefferson City City Council, but previously worked as an ombudsman for the state.

A long-term care ombudsman is often a volunteerwho helps families and individuals ensure their rights and needs are being respected and preserved in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes.

Treaka spoke a little about an ombudsman’s role and how people can reach out to them for help.

Treaka Young: Okay, I retired from the state of Missouri after 20 plus years. My last position for the last eight years was as the Assistant State Ombudsman with Department of Health and Senior Services.

"Every nursing home has an ombudsman. They’re supposed to have their picture on the wall and their contact information."
Treaka Young

For the record, ombudsman simply means speaking on behalf of someone.

So, I learned through training how to have top tough conversations. I learned through training how to push envelopes to get things moved.

So, I started going to community events and I was asking, “Do you all know what ombudsman means? Do you have a loved one in a nursing home?” Because that's where ombudsman usually take place, in nursing homes, advocating?

And they was like, “No, what is that?”

And it was usually the communities with the least amount of resources and education.

So, I started explained to them what ombudsman was, and they was like, “Oh my God, my mother is there and she's having so many problems.”

This one particular lady – she was literally almost in tears. She was like, :My mother is having so many problems at this particular nursing home, and I've been trying to work with staff, but they will not work with me because I'm just the daughter,” you know?

And so, I educated her on ombudsmen, and every nursing home has an ombudsman. They’re supposed to have their picture on the wall and their contact information.

But if you don't know what it means, you probably won't pay attention to it – and that was the case here.

Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services

So, I connected her, as soon as I could, with her ombudsman. We were able to get the ombudsman, which can have better conversations with staff, and it leaves a sense of retaliation from having take place for the family because that's what can happen, as well.

And so, with that being said, the ombudsman was able to help her mother to get the resources that she needs.

And it was something as simple – this particular lady, her mother wanted her hair washed on a more regular, frequent basis. She wanted to be bathed more frequently.

Now, the nursing home has a rule that you do not have to bathe the residents every day and that's okay, but what the residents don't know and what they sometimes forget to communicate to the resident is that they still get to lay out what that looks like.

It may be two days a week, it may be three days a week, it may be one day a week. Well, this lady didn't know, so she was probably getting the one day a week.

And so, that was the most touching story for me. it was a simple bath that she wanted – more frequently.

And so, that's what – was the one that put a fire up under me that knew that, to make me know that I needed to get out there and inform more people their rights.

Alex Cox is a Junior in the Missouri School of Journalism. They're a reporter and producer for KBIA.