Imagine you are living in an adult residential facility, confined to a wheelchair but convinced you could walk again if given some additional physical therapy. You may even have unattended lesions from sitting constantly. You feel “too restricted” and often leave the premises without informing the staff. The facility is now threatening to discharge you because, in their opinion, you repeatedly place yourself in danger. Who would you turn to for help? What if you were without family or friends to advocate for you?
These are the types of struggles that individuals such as “Logan,” a 47-year-old man with intellectual and developmental delays, may face while living in an adult residential facility. Logan and his peers are often extremely vulnerable due to limited mobility, intellectual delays, mental health concerns, and an impaired ability to communicate. For those living within skilled nursing facilities or residential care facilities for the elderly, advocacy and assistance has long been available through the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, housed within the County of San Diego’s Aging & Independence Services. While the mandate to respond to reports of abuse and neglect in other licensed care facilities has long been in effect, until recently the manpower to carry it out was unavailable.
In 2014, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors funded a position for a coordinator to build and implement a program in our local Long-Term Care Ombudsman office specifically dedicated to serving clients with developmental and intellectual disabilities who resided in adult residential facilities or intermediate care facilities, or who attend adult day programs. The newly created Ombudsman to Adult Residential, Day, and Intermediate Care Facilities (OARDIF) program is now up and running and looking to engage volunteers who would like to support these clients. The need is great, as there are over 600 facilities in San Diego County housing or serving clients eligible for OARDIF. A highly qualified and well trained team of OARDIF volunteers is essential to meet the goal of responding to every complaint voiced.
Would you or someone you know like to advocate on behalf of clients like Logan to ensure their needs are met? If so, please contact the OARDIF Coordinator, Kathy Wagner at (858) 495-5731 or call the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program office at (800) 640-4661.
Article submitted by Sally Jackson, Aging Program Specialist for Aging & Independence Services, Health & Human Services Agency