Earlene has been volunteering with the King County Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program for almost eight years.

“I got involved because I saw a lot of older people not being able to advocate for themselves, they weren’t speaking up for themselves. There are also a lot of older people that are put into places and their families don’t check on them. I thought I could make a difference.”

Over those eight years, Earlene has seen a lot and has also been able to build some great relationships with both residents and the employees at the long-term care facilities she visits regularly. As a volunteer long-term care ombuds, Earlene’s role is to ensure that residents in long-term care facilities have a good quality of life and recieve good care by providing them information about their legal rights, working to resolve complaints on behalf of residents, monitoring the enforcement of the laws by DSHS, and advocating for improvements in the long-term care system.

Earlene regularly visits 20 facilities in South King County and she also responds to complaints at other facilities received by the ombuds office. “I encourage the residents to be honest, and I help them figure out what is really an issue and what isn’t,” she shared. The complaints she receives vary from minor things such as items being misplaced to larger issues such as discrimination.

Earlene worked with a younger woman who had been in a car crash and was no longer able to live on her own. The facility she lived in was unlawfully limiting her ability to see doctors and attend church, while allowing other residents the ability to do these things. The resident felt she was being discriminated against. Earlene stepped in and worked with both the resident and DSHS to help get the resident moved to a different facility where the resident has been happy ever since.

Earlene also sees her role as more than helping the residents. She’s also there to help keep the staff informed about residents rights and issues. She says that most facilities are
open-minded, thoughtful, and want the best for their residents.

“The residents enjoy the company I provide and they like the activity. A little interaction can mean so much to them. It gives them something to look forward to and makes them feel special that I come to see them,” shared Earlene.