116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Opportunity is knocking at the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman in Iowa. State leaders should seize the opportunity, and turn a failing office into a successful one.
The opportunity is in selecting a strong leader for the office to fill a vacancy. Information on the vacancy can be found online at State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or by calling the Iowa Department on Aging at 515-725-3333.
The long-term care ombudsman’s office may be the most important yet least understood office of state government. Its mission is to ensure that Iowans living in long-term care settings (nursing homes, assisted living centers, residential care facilities, etc) are safe, being well cared for and have their rights protected.
The office is required to visit facilities; talk to residents and their families; observe what the facilities look, feel and smell like; ensure that questions and complaints of residents or families are being addressed; advocate for those residents; and to facilitate corrective action when needed.
Additionally, the office is expected to have a visible public information and education program, and to have a presence at the Iowa Capitol to advocate for legislation that would enhance the quality of long-term care services.
We’ve been critics of this office in the past. We’ve written and spoken about the failure of the office to adequately serve residents, as well as its failure to adequately use the resources provided to it by Iowa taxpayers.
Our criticisms were intended to highlight the need for change. Our hope was that the failures of the office would get heightened attention, and that efforts would be made to better serve some of our most vulnerable Iowans – Iowans in poor physical and mental health; often lonely, isolated and disheartened; and as one resident described to us: “existing but not living.”
It’s essential that exceptional people apply for the vacancy, that their credentials and attitudes are vetted in a manner that involves advocates and families, and that a person with a commitment to excellence is hired. Applications for the vacancy must be filed by May 23.
It could be an incredibly rewarding job – one providing a unique opportunity to create massive improvements in what the office does and how it does it, to uplift the morale of office staff and to create a team-based environment, to energize a public information and legislative affairs program, and most importantly, to improve the lives of over 50,000 Iowans who are long-term care facility residents.
It will also be a challenging job. The person selected – if they are to be successful -- will need to:
- Be highly independent while also understanding that they are part of the Governor’s team
- Be willing and able to be critical of the long-term care industry while also collaborating with them to improve care quality
- Work effectively with too few resources, while also demonstrating the need for more
- Turn a weary office staff into a more productive and happier group
- Create and nurture effective relationships with legislators and advocates for aging Iowans and Iowans with disabilities
- Build and sustain a large-scale, statewide network of volunteers; members of the public who visit facilities and serve as additional eyes and ears for the office
- Expand the office’s focus beyond nursing home care, and make the case to do more in assisted living and home-based settings.
Like it or not, we’re all getting older and run the risk of disability. We, or our friends and loved ones, may need long-term care services someday, and when we do, we’ll value the presence of this office and the work it does on our behalf.
Every Iowan should want and expect this office to be successful. That can happen if a talented, committed, and passionate person is hired to lead it.
John and Terri Hale own The Hale Group, an Ankeny-based consulting, advocacy and communication firm focused on older Iowans, Iowans with disabilities, and the caregivers who support them. email@example.com