Ombudsman Spotlight

Photograph of Theresa Gerstmeyer

How long have you been an ombudsman?                                                                                               

7 years

 What made you want to become an ombudsman?

I wanted to work and connect with residents more directly, so I applied for the long-term care ombudsman position in Colorado. I have enjoyed my role as the Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman in the Upper Arkansas region. I also enjoy other aspects of my work such as being an Eden Alterative Educator in order to train people on the Eden philosophy and culture change approach on person centered care.

What surprised you most about being an ombudsman?

I think what surprised me the most was learning about the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program federal laws on confidentiality.

What do you most enjoy about being an ombudsman?

I enjoy having the opportunity to share my knowledge with the certified ombudsmen I work with in my region. Also, I enjoy sharing the knowledge and experience that I have gained through the diversity of my training over the years. Previously, I worked in long-term care on the provider side and now working as an ombudsman helps me to have a well-rounded perspective. I enjoy taking the certified ombudsmen in my region to some of the care communities that have the most diverse populations, including those that house residents who are living with complex care needs and residents who identify as LGBTQ and transgender. It is important to me to stress that the populations we serve are very diverse and not isolated to only serving and advocating for older people. We also serve a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities and need to be prepared to advocate for all the people we serve. It is gratifying for me to help certified ombudsmen to grow and see other perspectives that they may not have already considered.

 Tell us 2-3 positive changes you are working to achieve in the communities that you serve.

Some positive changes include going to the community, legislative and other meetings to bring awareness of the diversity of the long-term care population now and discussing how it is rapidly changing.

I would like to see additional changes in the future such as training for providers that focuses on serving diverse populations and promote rights of all residents including LGBTQ, transgender, racially and culturally diverse populations.

Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you in your work as an advocate?

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” ~ James 1:19 NIV

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