Q: I just placed a family member in a nursing facility and there was mention of the long-term care ombudsman. What does an ombudsman do?
A: “Ombudsman” is a Swedish word meaning “citizen representative.” The long-term care ombudsman is a state-certified community volunteer trained to investigate and resolve problems for residents of long-term care facilities.
The ombudsman’s main goal is to ensure residents get services to which they are entitled. Many residents have little or no contact with the outside world or control over their lives. The ombudsman is residents’ advocate and helps improve the quality of their lives.
At least one experienced and trained ombudsman is assigned to each facility and must spend a specified period of time there each month. He or she is available to help resolve problems regarding residents’ rights, physical and mental care, dignity, meaningful activities, legal or financial problems and red tape.
The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program of Ventura is a nonprofit offering free and confidential services. It can be reached weekdays at 656-1986.
Q: My neighbor receives an SSI check from the federal government each month. Is this the same as Social Security?
A: No. Although SSI, or Supplemental Security Income, is overseen by the Social Security Administration, the money comes from the general fund of the Treasury.
SSI is for people with financial need. Checks are paid to those who are 65 and older, as well as to blind or disabled people of any age if they meet eligibility requirements. Applicants must have very little or no income and very few assets. They must be U.S. citizens or in the country legally and live in the U.S. or Northern Mariana Islands.
Part of the funds for the SSI check may come from the state. For recipients’ convenience, the state and federal governments have agreed to combine their payments into one check rendered by the federal government.
Applicants found eligible for SSI are usually also eligible for Medi-Cal, and a separate Medi-Cal application is unnecessary. SSI recipients are ineligible for food stamps, as the state provides funds through SSI.
Applicants must apply for other benefits, such as Social Security, before eligibility for SSI can be determined. For more detailed information about eligibility and benefits, contact the Social Security Administration.
Q: My friend recently lost her sight. I’m not sure how to help her when I visit. Do you have any thoughts?
A: When possible, treat your friend as you would a sighted person. Most people with a disability learn to work with their limits and want to do things for themselves whenever possible.
Help your friend use what vision she may have. Legal blindness is not necessarily total blindness, and wide gestures and contrasts, especially black and white, are seen more easily.
Always ask how you can help before taking the initiative. For example, if you are in a restaurant, don’t assume you need to read the menu aloud. Ask if doing so would be helpful.
When walking, allow your friend to take your arm. Don’t take hers. As you walk, alert your friend to changes such as a narrowing of the walkway or the presence of steps. Your friend will likely fall a half-step behind, allowing you to lead.
Enjoy your visits. You will soon learn when your help is appreciated.
Monday: Brain fitness seminar, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Agoura Hills Senior Center, 30610 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Agoura Hills. Call 818-597-7361 for information and reservations.
April 9: Seminar on understanding long-term care insurance and deciding whether you need it, 1:30-3 p.m. Westlake Village Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village. Call 495-6250 for information.
April 13: Community garage sale, 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. Call 381-2744 for information.
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