The High Country Area Agency on Aging Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is seeking volunteers in Wilkes County to serve as advocates for residents living in local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

These volunteer ombudsmen are assigned to long-term care facilities in their communities to advocate for residents’ rights after they are trained and certified. They're also referred to as Community Advisory Committee members.

Volunteers ombudsmen visit residents of long-term care facilities, learn about quality of care and life in the facilities and help resolve conflicts and concerns. Being a volunteer requires a minimum commitment of three hours per month for one year.

Interested individuals should be at least 18 and have a friendly disposition, eager attitude and be able to demonstrate active listening and collaborative problem-solving skills, said Stevie John, regional long-term care ombudsmen.

John said previous experience in health care isn’t required, but volunteers must have a strong appreciation for older adults and adults with disabilities. Certain conflicts of interest may prevent some people from serving, including being a current employee or having a family member who is a current employee of a long-term care facility.

She said volunteers can maintain flexible ombudsmen schedules that fit their lifestyles. Ongoing resources and support are available from the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, in addition to training.

John said benefits include developing rewarding relationships with long-term care residents and learning more about North Carolina’s long-term care system. She said the volunteer ombudsman program exists to protect resident’s rights and improve quality of care and life for residents in long-term care facilities.

To learn more about becoming a volunteer ombudsman or to request an application, call John at 828-265-5434 Ext. 126 or go to the High Country Area Agency on Aging website at www.highcountryaging.org.

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