It’s in the Bag
Ombudsmen are reaching out to nursing home residents in a new way
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 11, 2021
ROCKFORD—At some point close to Valentine’s Day, the Long Term Care Ombudsman program of Rockford Diocese Catholic Charities will be delivering special gift bags for residents at the nursing homes in nine of the 11 counties in the diocese — Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago, Boone, Carroll, Ogle, DeKalb, Whiteside and Lee. 
Residents in Kane and McHenry counties are served by a program in the Chicago suburbs.
The Ombudsman program received a grant from the Federal Cares Act to help provide nursing home residents with access to ombudsman service and outreach, to assure that ombudsmen would be able to keep in touch during the COVID pandemic. An ombudsman is someone who investigates and reports on, and helps settle, resident complaints. The program helps to ensure that residents of nursing homes, assisted living and supportive living centers and ICFDD (Intensive Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled) are receiving good care.
The grant first was used for a postcard campaign. The postcards contained all the contact information for the ombudsman office and were delivered to the various facilities to give to residents so they had the information necessary to call. The funds also allowed for the purchase of enough personal protective equipment for the ombudsmen to visit, connecting with residents remotely.
In-person visits were suspended by the State of Illinois due to the pandemic, says Cathy Weightman-Moore, former ombudsman program director who now is director of Catholic Charities. Ombudsmen could, however, do window and outdoor visits.
“Part of our role is to be in the nursing homes and assisted living facilities and go from room to room  and to be present to (residents),” Weightman-Moore says.
The idea of providing gift bags came from the Diocese of Joliet, which used some of its Cares Act funds to purchase drawstring bags and fill them with an activity book, colored pencils, and materials about the ombudsman program.
That kind of gift bag, says Weightman-Moore, can give residents “something to do. Many are alone and isolated in their rooms. They are not able to do a lot of communal activities” in the facilities. 
“This was a way for (the ombudsmen) to reach out to residents and also provide them with something they can do on their own,” she says.
Bags and contents arrived by the last week in January, and the 7,000 bags were scheduled to be packed up by staff and volunteers the first week in February, most often from home.
Bag contents ordered by the Rockford office include colored pencils, a pen, a packet of tissues and an adult activity book. Each bag will have a place for a resident to put his or her name on it.
“Joliet said (each of their bags) was so well received by the staff and residents,” says Weightman-Moore. “They were thrilled to be remembered, to know the ombudsmen are there.
“There was a lot of thought by the staff put into this process.”
“The facilities decide how we can deliver the bags,” says current Long Term Ombudsman program director, Julie Schuppner.
“Our hopes are not only that these will bring some happiness, but also provide an opportunity for us to reconnect with them.”
Shop Religious items at HOLYART.COM