Today's subject is about the Ombudsman Program in the USA, and about the services of the San Bernardino County Department of Aging and Adult Service (DAAS) Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in particular.

The program is comprised of advocates for residents in nursing homes and residential care facilities. There are three and three-quarters full-time contract workers, one full-time county worker and numerous volunteers.

Certified ombudsmen receive 36 hours of classroom training, 15 hours of mentoring and agree to attend an additional 12 hours of training yearly.

Certified ombudsman volunteers commit to donate 20 hours per month per person to the program, for a total of 6,720 volunteer hours donated to the County of San Bernardino. Volunteers receive reimbursement for traveling between their homes and their assigned facilities.

The work they do is to identify, investigate and resolve the complaints of residents in the skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. They train residents, caregivers, families and the community about long-term care issues, resident rights and resolving complaints. Patients deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They should be free from mental and physical abuse. Certified ombudsmen help with problems about quality of care, food, finance, meaningful activities and other concerns. There is no charge for the ombudsman services.

They respond to any of San Bernardino's 58 skilled nursing facilities and 256 residential care facilities for the elderly. They are mandated by state and federal law to identify, investigate, and resolve complaints on behalf of over 12,600 individuals living in long-term care facilities in San Bernardino County. Call toll free at 1-866-229-0284 for information.

The ombudsman program relies on the community to help by offering time and skills as volunteers, telling friends and neighbors about ombudsman services and supporting them with tax-deductible donations.

Some ombudsman history excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia: "Government bureaucracies tend to have so many regulations and procedures that they intimidate citizens dealing with them. To help cope, the Scandinavian countries instituted the office of ombudsman, meaning 'attorney' or 'legal representative.' Ombudsman is a legal commissioner who investigates citizen complaints against bureaucrat abuse/secrecy. The office has been copied in various forms in New Zealand, Great Britain, West Germany, Israel and some states in Australia, the United States and Canada." My notes say the offices were started in the early 1800s.

Roberta Wertenberg, Program Director, in the local office added this history: In 1971, President Nixon ordered Dr. Arthur Fleming, Counselor on Aging, to give an oversight on Nursing Homes. In 1975 some proposals were offered.

The San Bernardino County DAAS Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program in our area needs us to be reminded of the free services they offer and to spread the word of what they offer for our elderly. Please help as you are able.
Helen Bendure is a correspondent for the Desert Dispatch She can be contacted at