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Role of the State of Iowa Long Term Care Ombudsman

May 4, 2012
Deanna Clingan-Fischer - State of Iowa Long Term Care Ombudsman , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself - I am Deanna Clingan-Fischer, a lawyer, an advocate, and the current State of Iowa Long-Term Care Ombudsman. I served as the Legal Services Developer for the Iowa Department on Aging for a little over 21 years. During that time, I was a leader for elder rights and worked to improve systems that adversely impacted older person's quality of life. I intend to continue to stand up for the rights of individuals across this state.

There has been a lot of discussion of late concerning the independence and role of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman's Office after the signing of Executive Order 76. What is being missed throughout this upheaval and executive order conversation is the people we are here to serve. Serving those individuals is my primary concern and responsibility. I will work tirelessly to ensure that those rights are protected and that the voice of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman is indeed autonomous and independent.

The facts are that the Iowa Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman has always been under the umbrella of the Iowa Department on Aging. The executive order signed by Governor Culver in 2010 facilitated the relocation of the State Office to another office building but did not sever the relationship with the Iowa Department on Aging. The new executive order 76 did not change that relationship either; it simply relocates the State Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman from one address to another which also houses the rest of the State Unit on Aging. None of the duties, responsibilities or general work of the Ombudsman office has changed. The State and Local Long-Term Care Ombudsmen are advocates for residents and tenants of long-term care facilities, assisted living, and elder group homes. In fact, our office receives numerous letters of thanks and support for the work we do. One such letter stated, "The local ombudsman has been wonderful in helping my family member. She has been so caring, knowledgeable and helpful in finding out all our options, I cannot imagine having gone through all of this without her." Another letter stated, "Not many people would care enough to help me in the first place, let alone take the extra step to help find the correct information." It would be a shame if that good work was tarnished by this ongoing debate.

With some of the past history involving the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, I understand that there are concerns over another change. Please know that if this change affected my ability to advocate or speak up independently, I would be the first to state as much. This change, however, is simply a physical move of the office. In fact, nothing in this executive order hinders the independent voice of the Ombudsman. Executive Order 76 actually states that the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program is and shall remain an independent voice for Iowans in long-term care facilities and shall continue to meet all requirements of the Federal Older Americans Act, but shall be housed with and administratively supported by the Department on Aging.

The ability for the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman's office to continue to act independently is further strengthened by an agreement that was entered into in 2010, between the Department on Aging, the Iowa Commission on Aging and the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman's Office. This agreement implements the original executive order and is in the process of being updated to reflect the new executive order. This agreement ensures that the Department on Aging (IDA) and the Iowa Commission on Aging (ICA) will individually and collectively support and cooperate with the Long-Term Care Ombudsman in independently carrying out the duties imposed by the Iowa Code and the Older Americans Act. The IDA and ICA agree to the fullest extent provided by state and federal law, they will assume and maintain the independence and autonomy of the Ombudsman under the Older Americans Act. This agreement is one more way in which the aging network is collaborating with the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman's Office to strengthen the role and independence of the office into the future.

I challenge all of us to focus on the real issues that impact older persons. Those are the issues of concern?the abuse, neglect, poverty, scams, age discrimination, housing rights, residents rights, the misuse of legal documents, and exploitation . Let's focus on these issues and bring about change which leads to a better quality of life for residents of this state.

Contact Deanna Clingan-Fischer at:

Deanna.clingan@iowa.gov

 
 

 

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