The Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association has operated a Long-Term Care Ombudsman program since 1996.
But now it has another tool: a one-stop Web-based resource that aims to fill the information void as families make important decisions about long-term care.
“There is a need for this,” said Sally Jones Heinz, MIFA’s executive director.
The typical scenario is an elderly loved one has a sudden change of circumstance and the family is not sure where to turn, what steps to take and in what order.
“Sickness, a fall, a diagnosis, any number of different (situations),” said Zev Samuels, who manages the ombudsman program.
“It always happens in a hurry,” Heinz added. “You have to figure it out. It’s anxiety-causing.”
Called Navigating Nursing Home, Long-Term Care & Rehabilitation Resources, the new information center is part of the ombudsman program, which has served Shelby, Fayette, Tipton and Lauderdale counties for almost 20 years.
The new Web guide, which can be accessed through MIFA’s main site, www.mifa.org, contains information on 89 Mid-South long-term care facilities.
People may have some information, Samuels said, but often they are seeking more details, such as where a particular nursing home placed in the ratings.
“That’s been the type of question we get,” he said.
Heinz says the site is now averaging about 200 visitors per day. She says an intern from Rhodes College, Elizabeth Ross, provided a huge amount of help with the site and that during the development stage they used focus groups. Professionals in the long-term care field and ordinary people who previously had met with frustration when trying to find information on long-term care provided feedback.
“That was a really helpful process for us to fine-tune the site,” Heinz said.
Categories that can be found at the site include:
Residents of long-term care facilities & family FAQ; residents’ rights; long-term care facilities (a list) and resources; elderly and disabled adult abuse; and the ombudsman program.
Among some of the common questions: What should you look for in a long-term care facility? What should you do if you have concerns about treatment of a resident? How do you make a complaint against a long-term care facility staff member?
Mike Carpenter, executive director of the Plough Foundation, has called the new Web-based resource “a model for other state ombudsman programs.”
Heinz is even hoping that this new resource leads to getting more volunteers to act as ombudsmen. Each month, she said, volunteers will visit the same nursing home multiple times.
“They try to be familiar with the residents and to get to know the administrators in those homes,” Heinz said.
The benefit of such a site seems beyond question, given the growing senior population. The senior population in Memphis, for example, is expected to grow to 357,010 in 2020, a 34 percent increase from 267,240 in 2010.
Just about every large urban area in the country is going to be faced with similar changes, and the need for solid long-term care information is going to expand.
“We’re hoping other cities and communities will do their own websites,” Heinz said, “because there aren’t that many out there.”