The New Jersey Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly (OOIE) has identified a critical need for volunteer advocates to be placed in Camden and Burlington county nursing homes and has scheduled a four-day training session in late April and early May for new volunteers.
“Volunteer advocates are a lifeline for many residents of long-term care facilities in New Jersey. These committed volunteers provide friendship and companionship to elderly residents of nursing facilities. They also identify and mediate problems on the resident’s behalf,” said James W. McCracken, the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman and head of the OOIE.
At this time, 7 of 21 nursing homes in Camden County and 7 of 19 nursing homes in Burlington County do not have a volunteer advocate assigned to them, said McCracken.
The Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly provides advocacy to people living in long-term care facilities and investigates allegations of abuse and neglect in those facilities.
The training for new Burlington and Camden county volunteers will be hosted in the OOIE main office in Trenton on April 25 and 27 and May 6 and 10. No experience is necessary.
“When issues are identified in a nursing facility, the volunteer advocate can play an important role in resolving issues at the facility level. However, if an issue cannot be resolved satisfactorily, volunteer advocates can refer the matter for further action by the Ombudsman’s investigations staff,” McCracken said.
Volunteers undergo 32 hours of training in communication, observation and troubleshooting skills and are required to shadow an experienced volunteer for some period of time before being assigned to a facility. Once assigned to a facility, they are required to spend at least four hours a week volunteering.
“OOIE volunteer advocates are a reflection of the broader community. They come from all walks of life and every age group,” said Deirdre Mraw, who is the OOIE statewide volunteer coordinator. “Some OOIE volunteer advocates become interested in working with elderly residents as a result of their own personal experiences with aging family members. Others are retirees seeking a meaningful and rewarding way to use the skills they acquired during their working lives to benefit the larger community,”
Anyone over the age of 21 who is interested in volunteering should call Mraw at (609) 826–5053 and can visit the OOIE website at nj.gov/ooie