An ombudsman for seniors is an advocate for the elderly and their rights. An ombudsman goes to nursing homes or adult care facilities in their assigned area, and visits with the residents. She listens to complaints or concerns, looks into the quality of care received and reports any suspected abuse to the Department of Health, Department of Public Welfare, lawyers or the state's ombudsman’s office.
Determine whether you meet the basic criteria. You must be aged between 25 and 90 years old (some states have their starting age as low as 21), have reliable transportation, be available to make visits between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays, commit to serving as ombudsman for 6 months to a year, and you must also genuinely care for the elderly.
Evaluate your personal situation to determine whether to apply on a volunteer basis or if you need a paid position. A majority of the states have limited funding and prefer volunteers. A volunteer ombudsman position it requires just 2 to 3 hours per week.
Research the regulations governing ombudsmanship in your state, as well as the certification process. These generally include a criminal background check as well as a mandatory 6-hour minimum training, which will be paid for by the state. Continual training throughout your ombudsmanship is often required.
Visit the National State Ombudsman Resource Center (see Resources below) and click on your state to get state-specific information. As an example, California offers a State Licensure and Certification Program, with 36 hours of class training, 15 hours of field service and 12 hours of continuing training to stay certified by the state.
Contact your State Ombudsman office for the nearest certification center in your area. Contact a local office and register to get certified as an ombudsman for the elderly. Your local office will work with you to get you through the certification process.
Some training courses may ask for small fees for materials ($35 for printing fees, as an example) but there are scholarships available. If you want to become a certified ombudsman, you’ll be required to visit all care facilities in your jurisdiction every 9 to 15 months to ensure they meet the state’s standards. You can also be called in or required to be present at a moment’s notice. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer ombudsman, call the Volunteer Director at (800) 815-0015 for more information.
Being an ombudsman for the elderly is not a job for the weak-hearted. It can entail witnessing and documenting cases of severe abuse, neglect and/or helping give information about guardianship or power-of-attorney issues. If you aren’t prepared for full involvement, try finding a volunteer service more suitable.