It's a small group, but a half dozen dedicated "ombudsmen" volunteers in Comanche County and the surrounding area have a big impact on the lives of 1,300 or so people who live in 38 nursing homes and assisted living centers.
Just ask Dacia Nix at the Area Agency on Aging. Among other things, she's responsible for making sure that nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Comanche, Stephens, Caddo, Jefferson, Tillman, Cotton, Grady and McClain counties meet state and federal requirements in the way they take care of residents.
Nix and her partner supervisor, Kim Rhodes, stay busy and are often on the road, dropping in on facilities unannounced. Ombudsmen volunteers, she said, provide a tremendous service by paying regular visits, too, stopping by to spend time with older people who live in the facilities, sometimes sharing meals with them, listening to concerns and then acting as their advocates in resolving any problems.
Nix said she'd like to add another half a dozen more volunteers to the fold.
"I would actually like to have 10 or even 15," she said.
Additional ombudsmen are needed in all of the counties and especially in Comanche, Caddo, Tillman and McClain counties.
The volunteers, along with Nix and Rhodes, actually are interested in more than just making sure facilities meet legal requirements. Nix said nursing homes especially in the past were places where people really didn't want to go or visit. The goal these days is for residents to feel more at home and to feel that they're being treated with respect and dignity.
"Just like you and I, they have rights, and those rights don't need to be violated," she said.
Ombudsmen volunteers have to have background checks and a couple of days of training. Then they're asked to commit to spending at least a couple of hours each week in the facility or facilities in their area. Some likely spend more time than that. Not surprisingly, the volunteers can get pretty close to residents.