In my younger years I spend a lot of time with my grandmother at her small café. I would hang out with her and sometimes get to wait on tables. That is where my love of elders blossomed as many of Grammy’s regular customers were elders. I quickly realized how interesting they were, by the memories they freely shared. They had lived life and valued life. They brought joy to those who would take a minute or two to talk to them. I was one of those filled with joy.
Once in college, I started off pursing a social work degree, it evolved several years later into a degree in legal studies. Working at a law firm was O.K. but I missed the social work aspect. When I saw a job posting for a paralegal who enjoys working with elders, I knew it would be the perfect fit, and it was. The rest is history. I have been a long-term care Ombudsman since 2000 and added the responsibility of being the Executive Director of VOICES in 2005.
Being a member of the Evansville Bar Association; involved with Guardianship Services of Southwestern Indiana; a member of the National Association of Local Long-Term Care Ombudsmen and The Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care helps me serve and advocate for our neighbors in local long-term care homes. I love VOICES mission! We serve one of the most vulnerable groups of folks in our community—the ones who are most likely to get forgotten.
I have always loved being around elderly folks, hearing their stories and learning about their past. Working at VOICES lets me interact with our neighbors in long-term care on a different level. Sometimes it’s just helping facility staff remember that those that live in the home are not just residents, but human beings with individual preferences who have the right to make choices, just like you and me! Other times it’s helping a long-term care resident avoid an unjust eviction and be allowed to stay in their home.
As a Long-Term Care Ombudsman, I love being able to have a positive impact on the daily lives of our long-term care neighbors.
I am a husband and father of three and have lived in the Evansville area my entire life.I had an interest in expanding my volunteer work in the area of our aging population. I was asked by my friend and fellow board member Jared Wells if I would like to be a part of the VOICES board. I agreed that serving on the board would align with my goals and the current volunteer work I had been overseeing of my children, which involved reading and crafts with local nursing home residents close to our home.
My favorite part of serving VOICES is hearing the stories from our ombudsmen (women) during meetings and interactions. it is so rewarding to hear of long-term-care residents and their families, that may not be able to advocate for their own rights, being helped by our mission. And most importantly - free of charge.Whenever I over-hear a coworker, acquaintance, family member, or someone in public express a frustration with treatment in a long-term-care facility and am able to inform them there is a free-of-charge service to assist them, it is rewarding.
If I could waive a magic wand, I would simply want everyone to realize this resource is available to them. Issues of long-term-care resident rights don't have to be near the frustration they are for residents and families. Many times, free education and advocacy by an ombudsman is enough to resolve these daily frustrations.As a society, if we could start to view individuals toward the end of life as we view them at the start of life, we would be a step closer to caring for the forgotten vulnerable populations in our community that are too often tucked away from view.
When I was practicing as a lawyer many years ago, a judge who had been active with VOICES asked me to join the board. It is difficult to say “No.” to a judge so I agreed. Although I am no longer a practicing attorney, I have remained active with VOICES for over 10 years. I have had personal experience with having family living in a long-term care home and believe strongly in the mission of VOICES.
Somebody, from my firm, had been on the VOICES board and when there was a vacancy, the opportunity came up to join the board. It’s how I started with VOICES. But, I've stuck around for as long as I have, because of the relationships I've had with some of the elders in my life. All my grandparents are special to me, but my grandpa, who has passed away, was particularly special to me. I was able to spend a lot of time with him and build cherished memories.
One thing I noticed at family gatherings and in other setting where there were older folks, is after a certain point in their lives, they kind of sit off to the side. They are not really ignored, but they are more like furnishings. So, I try to make a special point to go talk to them. It’s always kind of stuck with me that society doesn’t seem to value our elders the way they deserve. Someone has got to look out for them and it’s one of the reasons why I continue to stay with VOICES.
I was introduced to VOICES when someone I knew invited me to meet with her, the board president and Michelle, the Ombudsman, to learn about the organization and the role of a board member. Near my workplace, there are a several senior apartments, so I have a lot of older clients and their families that I work with. It has been very good to have the knowledge about the services VOICES provides so I can pass the information on to the families and older people themselves as a resource. It is information that can help others when they are going through a very difficult and emotional time of their life.
My favorite part of being a part of VOICE is to know that I can provide VOICES (Michelle and Alicia) as a resource to families who have loved ones live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.
I wish that our community knew that VOICES is only a phone call away to provide information on what to look for in a long-term care home and to advocate for proper care of their loved ones in a home.
I was drawn to serving on the board of VOICES because I totally believe in the mission and support that VOICES provides to our most vulnerable residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. My dad was in a nursing home for 15 years and it was a comfort to know he had VOICES as his advocate. The two Ombudsmen, Michelle and Alicia, put their heart and soul into their work. I love the fact that they remind us that this is the residents’ “home” and like any of us, we want to live in a safe, clean home and be treated with dignity and respect.
It is also fun to help with the annual Halloween fundraiser. We raise money for a great cause and last year during the” Drive Thru Boo,” we got to interact with all the families as they drove through to pick up their goodies
My wish is that individuals know that they have an advocate for their loved ones and that we do all we can to have a professional/collaborative rapport with the nursing home staff to achieve quality of life and care for those that make a nursing or assisted living home their “home.” However, the resident’s goal is our priority.
VOICES is near and dear to my heart. I'm an elder law attorney, so I see every day how people and families are impacted by poor care in nursing homes and assisted living homes. That is their home, and they are entitled to respect and dignity where they're living. Oftentimes that's disregarded, whether intentional or not.
It's nice to call Michelle and Alicia, the Ombudsmen, to pick their brains by trying to figure out if it's appropriate for families to connect with them to improve the situation at the long-term care home. Having the resource of Michelle and Alicia is so valuable. They provide a much-needed service in our community, so I really enjoy serving on this board.
As a discharge planner for a hospital, I was familiar with the work that VOICES does. Their sole focus is on advocating for and empowering residents in long-term care homes. The Ombudsman are passionate, dedicated, mindful and ethical. The work that Ombudsmen, Michelle and Alicia do is so inspiring. So, it was easy to be drawn to VOICES’ mission.
My favorite part of being on the board is learning how creative and knowledgeable they are. They are always looking for ways to empower others.
I really wish people knew that there are NO State or Federal standards for minimum staffing numbers at nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Having minimum staffing requirement will benefit everyone. Concerned citizens have the power to change this egregious dereliction by simply contacting State elected officials at every level.
My friend Becky influenced me to join the board. She was looking out for something for me to do to keep busy. We had talked about it in the past, before I had even considered coming on board. She is very passionate about VOICES. That was the main influence. But the second one, and the most important one, was Michelle the Ombudsman. She helped my wife and sister get help for my mother. We were in a crisis situation and desperate. Michelle was there to listen and provide us with valuable information. And I will never forget that. Serving on the board is my way to repay and give back to the organization that really helped us out that day. That's the honest truth. And I will never, ever forget how VOICES helped. That's why I'm here.
I wish people knew what a valuable resource VOICES is before they need it. Knowing what VOICES does, and can do to assist families, is so important and helpful as more and more families navigate long-term care for their loved ones.
I learned of VOICES back in 2012 when I was a Loaned Executive during the United Way campaign. It is when I met Michelle, an Ombudsman at VOICES. She did a lot of my presentations at local businesses to let employees know of the good work agencies, who received United Way money, do for our community. She was always willing to do a presentation, especially when I couldn’t find anyone else. Then one day when we were setting up presentations for companies, she asked me if I would be interested in joining the board. I had no clue what that entailed, but after hearing her presentations, I decided to get involved.