By Hilary Teply, Social Work Intern
Holidays are a time when most of us gather together with family and friends, enjoy one another’s company, and look forward to the good times in the year ahead. As an intern Ombudsman representative, I need to understand that many individuals who were at one time the center of their family celebrations, are no longer in this position. Throughout this season when I see residents in facilities, I am reminded of the importance of the relationships we build with one another. But many residents have few visitors, and rely on caregivers who take turns being with and caring for residents on holidays.
In order to become a good advocate for residents, my first step must be to build strong relationships. Elders deserve our admiration because of their contributions to society. They deserve a higher level of protection because of their increased vulnerability, especially if they do not have family support. However people and life events have often conspired to teach elders that they should not expect other people to support their rights and wishes.
As an Ombudsman intern when I make my rounds, I encounter residents from all walks of life and ability levels. Many of our residents receive a lot of love during the holidays. There are those who send out a lot of cards to keep in touch with family and friends. And some have more empty spaces in their address books than in years past. These life transitions impact individuals most during this time of year, and can make it very difficult for individuals receiving care.
Throughout these conversations, I remember that the most important way I, as an Ombudsman representative, can impact residents is to make sure they know that they still have the right to speak up. And that the Ombudsman can help them attain that goal if they encounter difficulty.
When I ask about residents’ lives and experiences, I am always amazed by the interesting stories, significant choices, and impact they have made in others’ lives. I hear stories of family conflict and reconciliation, traditions and celebrations, and remembrance filled with love for people who were close. I am grateful I get to share in these stories.
I have hopes for all the residents I meet: hopes they receive a special Christmas and New Year’s dinner, and hopes they receive calls and cards from family. I am honored to share in a bit of their story, and affirm their right to good care and quality of life.