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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published January 30 2011

Bursack: Elder care assistance at your fingertips

Dear Readers: Recently, I renewed my acquaintance with one of the most helpful websites around.

While I’ve frequently used my column to recommend www.ltcombudsman.org, which is the National Long-term Care Ombudsman Resource Center, I haven’t taken time to explore the depths of this site until a few weeks ago when I interviewed Becky Kurtz, director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs.

For many people, finding their state’s website online, and typing in the word “aging,” is often the quickest route to localized help with elder care. However, the Long-term Care Ombudsman site, also known as NORC, will go a long way toward helping you find the information you need.

Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. They are also helpful when you are thinking of moving a loved one from one kind of care facility to another, say from assisted living to a nursing home. The details vary, but each state has a mix of paid staff and trained volunteers.

If you go to the NORC site, you will find a graphic of the United States that says “Locate an ombudsman.” When you click that graphic, you’ll see a map of the U.S. Click on the state you live in, or the state where your elder lives. You’ll then be led to a list of ombudsmen, state agencies and citizen advocacy groups for that state.

Here, you’ll find the name and contact information of the ombudsman who serves the area that interests you. You will also find, at least in my state, contact information for your State Office on Aging, regional ombudsman to help you through the maze of finding local help, some of which may be government-funded, information on licensing and certifications of facilities, how to contact the Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators, a link to your Medicaid agency, a quality improvement organization, information on the Protection and Advocacy System and Adult Protective Service Agency. Names, phone numbers, fax numbers, as well as e-mail addresses, are included with each agency.

The NORC site also gives you a link to sign up for “The Consumer Voice,” which is a national organization to improve the quality of care for long-term care consumers. Their direct site is www.theconsumervoice.org. Browse these sites, or ask for help from someone with computer access. The contact information you’ll find is invaluable.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a Web site supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com