Daily Point of Light # 2644 Mar 24, 2004

Viola Engel is a volunteer Long-term Care Ombudsman for the Salt Lake City Aging Services. She is a caring, cheerful addition to the organization whose nursing background makes her a perfect fit as a volunteer. Ms. Engel dedicates 4-5 hours each week to the organization and has done so for the past 2 ½ years.

As an ombudsman, Ms. Engel advocates for the elderly living in nursing homes, investigating abuse, neglect and exploitation. She has been instrumental in helping nursing home residents’ voices to be heard. She also lets them know they have a say in their living environment. She facilitates trainings with staff on residential rights and other topics that are appropriate for the staff and volunteers. Monthly, she holds meetings to encourage residents to advocate for themselves.

In addition, Ms. Engel works with the family members of the residents. She encourages the families to become more involved in the residents lives and has helped them developed family councils. She has also assisted by providing mediation services.

The vital purpose of an ombudsman is to empower and defend long-term care residents and improve their quality of life. Nationally, over 60% of nursing home residents do not have family members who will advocate for them. The position of an ombudsman is not a warm and fuzzy one; however, it is a volunteer position that requires excellent communication skills, objectivity and dedication. You are required to look at facts and conditions and work to make sure the residents are being cared for in the way they should be. You may also need to speak with family and request that they become involved in their family member’s lives; that is not easy to do.

Viola Engel takes the time to get to know the residents. She looks at their conditions and sees what needs they have and what needs are being met. She then studies the laws and rules that govern the rights of long-term care residents so she can be prepared as an advocate. She then works and fights to see that the rights of residents are honored; she is fair and tenacious when it comes to their rights.