Oklahoma Department Of Human Services Names Long Term Care Ombudsman

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William “Bill” Whited is the new top advocate for Oklahoma nursing home residents.

As long-term care ombudsman, Whited succeeds Esther Houser, who retired after 40 years in that role.

The state Department of Human Services promoted Whited, 45, who had been deputy ombudsman.

There are 28 paid advocates and 125 volunteer ombudsmen in the state. Oklahoma has 318 nursing homes with 19,006 residents.

Whited said dignity and respect are top priorities for residents of long-term care facilities and their families.

The ombudsman program receives $1.9 million a year from federal, state and local funding sources, including the Older Americans Act, Medicaid and the Nursing Home Provider Fee.

Ombudsmen investigate complaints about residential care facilities. Whited also will spend time at the state Capitol supporting measures that would reform nursing home care.

Whited has a sociology degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond; is a certified state disaster preparedness specialist; and has worked for 20 years in the delivery of aging, mental health, juvenile justice and human services in Oklahoma.

He has worked for the state Department of Human Services for 18 years. He was an adult protective services investigator and a long-term care advocate. He has served as chairman of the Oklahoma County Coalition Against Financial Exploitation of the Elderly, and served on the board of directors for Oklahoma Court Appointed Advocates for Vulnerable Adults.

Whited answered these questions for The Oklahoman:

Q: What do you want to accomplish as the new state ombudsman?

A: I’ll work with residents, their families and long-term care facilities to improve the quality of life and quality of care. I want to hear from all sources.

Q: Why is your job important to seniors and their families?

A: The state ombudsman acts as a voice for residents of long-term care facilities. That voice is one that is required to be truly independent of any conflict of interest. As such, the state ombudsman is many times the only voice that represents residents free from political and industry pressures.

Q: What do you see for Oklahoma long-term care facilities?

A: I would like to see facilities have a homelike environment that integrates family and community involvement and recognizes individual needs and preferences. Many facilities have made great strides in this area, but many have a long way to go in achieving a homelike environment.

Q: What changes are needed for long-term care facilities?

A: It’s time that higher staffing becomes a priority. Current ratios outlined in state law are inadequate to meet the needs of residents. The Oklahoma Nursing Home Care Act has a provision that staffing ratios should have been increased starting back in 2003. (But Whited said consistent increases have not occurred, even though the daily reimbursement rates have more than doubled since the passage of the provision. Nursing home advocates Trish Emig, of Stillwater, and Dorothy Cassel, of El Reno, explained that state officials didn’t designate that funds collected should be used to specifically hire more staff. So, some nursing homes have increased their staff and others haven’t.)

Q: The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature is proposing a law that all state nursing homes must have backup generators to supply power sources in emergencies. What are your thoughts?

A: Oklahoma has a plethora of natural disasters and the potential for man-made disasters. As such, having either an on-site generator system or a contract with a company to provide a generator within a specified time frame after a power outage should be a must.

Q: The same Silver Haired Legislature also wants some type of nursing home administrator to be on site 24 hours a day. What is your opinion on this?

A: The premise behind this proposal is that the more often administrative staff are in the building, the less likely there will be problems. I find that to be true. While an administrator cannot be expected to work 24 hours a day, it would be a good idea to make sure there is some form of administrative staff supervising the facility on all shifts.

Q: What are some other needed reforms?

A: The ombudsman program needs local volunteers to act as advocates for residents. It is a very rewarding way to give back to your community and to help residents. It only requires two hours per week to spend with residents in the facility. Residents need companionship.

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Source : http://newsok.com/article/5365834

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