When an 84-year-old SE Washington resident named Bob needed someone to advocate for him, the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, operated by Multi-Service Center in Federal Way, stepped in.
Bob had been placed against his wishes into a nursing home. To anyone who would listen, Bob berated the nursing home and pleaded to be allowed back home.
His regional ombudsman, part of a statewide network of trained volunteers who advocate for residents of long-term care facilities across Washington, checked on Bob regularly. After a few weeks, however, she became alarmed by Bob's condition.
"He had lost weight and I was concerned. I mentioned it to nursing home staff," said the ombudsman. Staff assured her it was nothing to worry about.
The ombudsman also saw evidence that Bob appeared to be heavily medicated by an anti-psychotic drug called Risperdal, often used to control challenging behaviors. The drug can have long-term adverse side effects as well as fatal consequences for elderly people with dementia, like Bob.
Worried, the ombudsman called the state office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, located in Federal Way, and got help. When the state ombudsman questioned nursing home staff about Bob's deteriorating condition, the nursing home decreased and finally stopped the antipsychotic drug. Bob's condition improved, and today, he is doing well.
With a new grant from the Washington State Attorney General, the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) at Multi-Service Center will soon launch a consumer awareness program regarding the use of these antipsychotic drugs in elderly people with dementia.
"We know that people living in long-term care facilities use these drugs at a higher rate than in the greater community. This funding will help us prevent the considerable harm done to residents in long-term care facilities," said Patricia Hunter, state ombudsman. "We already have a great built-in structure for disseminating critical information to residents of facilities, their families, and the staff who provide care in those facilities."
The statewide program consists of a network of more than 300 trained and certified volunteer ombudsmen who work to ensure that residents in long-term care settings receive a good quality of life and care by providing information to consumers about their rights, working to resolve problems on behalf of residents, monitoring the enforcement of the laws by DSHS, and advocating for improvements in the long-term care setting.
Ombudsmen investigated 4,493 complaints last year, and 92 percent of complaints were handled in-house rather than through the more expensive regulatory system.
The two-year grant is comprised of funds collected by the Washington State Attorney General's office from a settlement of a case against Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson and Johnson, for illegal marketing of the drugs Risperdal, Risperdal Consta, Risperdal M-Tab, and Invega.