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Advocates needed for senior facilities

Courtesy of Rosallen Alfonso/Ombudsman Program Staff

Ombudsman Program Staff Rosallen Alfonso receives her second COVID-19 vaccine as part of her duties as an advocate in Skilled Nursing Facilities and Residential Care Facilities.


“The volunteers that want to do it, do it out of the kindness of their hearts. They want to advocate for those that have been neglected.”

— Rosallen Alfonso, Fresno-Madera Long-Term Ombudsman Staff

When the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed communities across the country, a certain group became marginalized. The senior community, in general, and more so community members inside assisted-living facilities were forgotten.

Families could no longer visit their loved ones in the facility, and the anxiety and stress of not being able to check in on family became a challenge.

Even before the emergence of COVID-19, a local group has been serving as the eyes and ears for many families in Madera and Fresno counties.

The Fresno-Madera Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, a part of the Valley Caregiver Resource Center (VCRC), has been an advocate for the senior community in licensed Skilled Nursing Facilities and Residential Care Facilities making a difference in the quality of life of nearly 10,000 residents.

Now, the community of Madera is asked to step up. Volunteers are needed to provide a critical role in assisting the Ombudsman Program meet the needs of Maderans across the county. The program itself was based on volunteer assistance when it was originally created and with the added burden of COVID-19, more assistance is required.

“The volunteers really make a difference,” Ombudsman Program staff member Rosallen Alfonso said. “We have some volunteers that are young and then some that are older. If you care about the community and the people, then you would be a good fit here.”

The Ombudsman Program works to resolve complaints made by, or on the behalf of, residents living in long-term care. In order to become a State Certified Ombudsman Representative, Ombudsman Program volunteers attend a week long, in-person training in the VCRC Conference Room (state guidance will be followed.)

A complaint is defined as information regarding action, inaction or decisions that may adversely affect the health, safety, dignity, welfare or rights of residents. Ombudsmen respect resident and complainant confidentiality while focusing the complaint resolution to the resident’s stated wishes.

Additionally, trainees will receive 10 hours of field training, accompanied by a staff Ombudsman prior to receiving their individual facility assignments.

“Especially during this time, it’s a good thing that we do make those visits,” Alfonso said. “Some families are not allowed to visit inside due to COVID-19. They can do window visits, but it is not enough to check on their families. We’re the eyes and ears for the families.”

And, for many, if not all facilities in Madera, having the ability to meet the needs of Spanish speakers is very important. The diversity within Madera County is a strength and for the Ombudsman Program to adequately advocate for senior citizens, having the ability to communicate effectively is key.

“What I find rewarding, is that we get to help the seniors find their voice. At the end of the day, when I go into any case I am investigating, I always let the individuals know that this is their home,” Long-Term Ombudsman staff Jessica Rodriguez said. “I let the residents know their rights and I just let them know they are cared about both by their families and us.”

Moreover, the work the Ombudsman Program undertakes goes well beyond that specific moment. Often times the tips and information they provide to senior citizens within the facilities gives them a foundation in order for future issues that might arise.

The Ombudsman Program advocates and empowers.

For those who are interested in giving back to your community as a Fresno-Madera Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program volunteer, please contact Susan Bussean the Ombudsman Program Manager Monday- Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at 224-9177 or email for more information.


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