Nearly two-thirds of residents of nursing facilities across the state have no immediate relatives or regular visitors.
The percentages are worse at some facilities in Jefferson County and southeast Texas, officials said, making the need for volunteers all the more important.
The effort that is having the most impact in Port Arthur and beyond is the Texas Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.
Staff Ombudsman Nancy Seegers is part of the team that recruits, trains, certifies and oversees volunteer ombudsmen, who visit nursing home residents weekly and advocate for resident rights and quality of care.
Those with a passion to become caring and dedicated volunteers complete a 36-hour training course that includes classroom training, self-directed training, and in-school training.
Upon completion of the training, the volunteer visits a facility once a week for 1-2 hours, spending time visiting residents.
Volunteers can make their own schedules, as it is flexible to schedule their visit.
Quarterly meetings are held for continuing education on different topics, Seegers said.
“Most people who volunteer are interested in visiting our residents in the facilities,” she said. “It helps to be a good listener and to have empathy. Communication is important.
According to Seegers, the program needed volunteers before the COVID closures and that need continues afterward. The effort, funded by the state of Texas, depends on volunteers to tour the facilities.
The program actively recruits volunteers to advocate for residents of nursing facilities in Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties.
“I had a long career in long-term care, and it gave me the opportunity to continue,” Seegers said. “I have always enjoyed working with older people. In our program, there is the local managing ombudsman and the staff ombudsman who are paid, and the volunteers offer their services to the residents without remuneration but with many blessings. »
During the training, a facility is assigned to the volunteer and the time is flexible for him to make the visits.
In the tri-county area, the program covers more than 2,200 residents living in nursing care facilities.
Caring and dedicated volunteers are needed, ready to defend this growing population.
The program is administered by the Southeast Texas Regional Agency on Aging in Beaumont, which is a division of the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission.
Volunteers visit residents, identify and investigate complaints, and educate residents, families, and facility staff. The focus is on protecting the health, safety, well-being and rights of people in long-term care facilities.
Services are confidential.
Volunteers must be 18 years old and no previous experience is necessary.
Seegers points out that if you have one to two hours a week, you can make a difference in someone’s life.
Those interested in learning more about volunteering and becoming a certified ombudsman should call Seegers at 409-899-8444, ext. 6372.
Stephen Hemelt is president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes panews.com and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 409-721-2445.