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Monday, February 25, 2008

Thinking About Accessibility & Resources For Our Elderly/Disabled Neighbors

Last week, I accompanied a good friend of mine who had errands in the rapidly growing neighborhoods around the City of Kent's East Hill. While my friend drove, I enjoyed the passing panorama of the area and could not help be struck by the placement, location and number of advertisements along the street in front of this or that local adult residential care center or adult boarding home.

In one such area, I counted three to four such facilities within what seemed to be a two mile or so radius, which gave me pause just to consider how many facilities of a similar nature are sited in my own community of Federal Way. And despite the fact I am over a twenty-year city resident, I was appalled by the fact I was at loss to recall the location of all but a few.

It is quite likely, that due to different restrictions on zoning and promotional signage between the two communities, may be responsible for the fact it is far more difficult to be as easily familiar with the actual presence of these facilities in Federal Way as it is for those residents in Kent's East Hill.

Fortunately for myself, a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of being introduced to Mary Fogh, the able volunteer coordinator for King County's Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP), who staffed a most professional-looking information table alongside about a dozen or so organizations and community groups in the lobby and hallways at Decatur High School, prior to the City of Federal Way's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration on Monday, January 21st.

According to Fogh, there are four nursing homes, five assisted care facilities and 69 adult family homes in the vicinity of Federal Way. Additionally, there is at present a critical need to fill up to fifteen volunteer slots in the area to assist the program and serve some 1,200 seniors and other disabled residents in this locale.

While it goes without saying work by volunteers has changed the lives of countless people in communities all over the nation, a special word should be made for South Sound men and women willing to serve in the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Volunteer listings in community newspaper are published frequently these days as groups compete for available candidates. In many respects, there appears to be a volunteer opportunity for everyone depending on one's interest, talent and time constraints.

Most of us are aware of such names and ongoing work of the Lions Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, Little League, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Scouting, Camp Fire, Habitat for Humanity and the local Parent Teacher Association down the street. Conversely, for all too many, the LTCOP does not ring such a familiar bell.

However, as the bulk of the Baby Boomer population moves into the era when applying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is as fashionable as white go-go boots, love beads and long sideburns were in the past, the availability of LTCOP volunteers may become increasingly more of a major concern.

To a great extent, this is precisely because for those members of our community who are forced by circumstances to be placed or entertain voluntary entrance into managed care systems due to age or unforeseen illness or accidents. that access to a third party advocate to resolve concerns about lifestyle and care in these facilities is a lifesaver and godsend.

I share this as a family member of elderly who have spent time going into and out these kinds of facilities elsewhere, an interested observer and community member and a number of years ago for a very short time a former LTCOP volunteer.

While many of these neighbors were able to act on their own behalf in the past, at the point in their lives when the impact of these conditions such as those mentioned above play a increasingly critical role, they often find they are now least able to perform in the same capacity as their plate is full at present dealing with major or permanent losses in physical, mental, emotional function and ability.

LTCOP volunteers receive certified training to prepare them for the responsibility to be effective advocates for the individual resident as mandated by law and facilitate the communication process between the resident, other residents, the resident's family, caregivers and managed health care system. It is a creative but highly demanding, challenging and very rewarding opportunity for persons looking for a volunteer experiences that have a direct, significant and personal impact upon the quality of life of a fellow human being.

The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program was created as part of a demonstration project and is established today in all 50 states under the Older Americans Act and is administered by the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging.

There are fourteen regional ombudsman programs throughout Washington State including programs in King and Pierce Counties. The regional programs are linked in turn to the office of the Washington State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, which is currently held by Louise Ryan, MPA, which is housed by coincidence, at the Multi-Service Center in Federal Way, WA.


For more information on the needs in Federal Way, the LTCOP program in King County, qualifications, training and duties of a volunteer long-term care ombudsman entails call Mary Fogh, at 206-694-6703, e-mail at or go to the website at :

Persons in Pierce County are encouraged to contact Karen Hausrath at 253-798-3789 or e-mail at For additional details, an excellent presentation is available at:

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