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Workshop focuses on elder abuse

An assisted living in-service workshop was held Thursday at First Baptist Church in Troy with representatives from area assisted living facilities attending.

The workshop was sponsored by the South Central Alabama Development Commission Area Agency on Aging for the purpose of further training facility employees about elder abuse and patient rights, said Georgia Jenkins, program coordinator of Alabama Cares and the Alzheimer's Program.

"There is much to know about both these areas," Jenkins said. "The workshop offers information, ideas and answers questions that employees might have about situations they have encountered. It is a very valuable workshop."

The workshop was conducted by Karen Crawford, lead community Ombudsman for SCADC; Terry Fuqua, LPN Vanguard Home Health Services; and Jenkins.

Jenkins said caring for someone who has Alzheimer's disease is an incredible commitment and can often be overwhelming. Increased knowledge of the disease can significantly improve an individual's ability to cope with Alzheimer's, as well as help one prepare for the emotional and economic impacts of the disease as it progress.

Caregivers must have a strong support network to help them deal with the demands of Alzheimer's disease, Jenkins said.

For this reason, the Alabama Department of Senior Services developed the Alzheimer's Caregiver Education and Support Program, a pilot program addressing some of the special needs of individuals and families dealing with Alzheimer's disease.

Through the 13 Area Agencies on Aging, the Alzheimer's Caregiver Education and Support program provides for statewide training, public education and community-based support services for individuals with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.

Crawford spoke to the group from the perspective of an Ombudsman and their role in patient rights.

Ombudsmen are advocates for residents of long-term care facilities or their friends or families who work to protect the health, safety, welfare and rights of Alabama's senior citizens.

Crawford said an Ombudsman's job is to protect the rights of residents and assure that they receive fair treatment and quality care. They accomplish this by investigating and resolving complaints, visiting each family to evaluate conditions, ensure that residents are receiving legal, financial and social rehabilitative and other services to which they are entitled.

The Ombudsman also acts as a mediator between residents, family members and facility staff and educates residents families and facility staff about resident's rights.

In addition, Crawford said the Ombudsman provides information to the public, assists with the establishment of resident and family councils and represents residents' interests before state and federal government by working to change laws, regulations and policies that affect those who live in long-term care facilities.

Anyone can use an Ombudsman, including residents or employees of long-term care facilities or their families or friends.

Crawford said a complaint might be filed in writing, by phone or in person. The Ombudsman will then take the appropriate action to resolve the problem and the one who filed the complaint will be notified of the results.

Complaints may be about the facility, its employees, providers, public or private agencies, guardians or anyone who is in a position to threaten or interfere with the rights, health, safety or welfare of a resident.

A person filing a complaint does not have to reveal his or her name. However, Crawford said it is better if that person may be contacted for more information. Everything is kept confidential unless the complaint or the resident gives permission to make their name known.

To find our more about patient rights and Ombudsman, call 1-800-AGE-LINE or visit www.AGELINE.net.