TYLER, Texas — In Texas, every assisted living facility or nursing home is assigned an ombudsman.

The East Texas Council of Governments’ Area Agency on Aging program has six paid staff members and volunteers who act as ombudsman for 154 facilities in the following counties:

  • Anderson
  • Camp
  • Cherokke
  • Gregg
  • Harrison
  • Henderson
  • Marion
  • Panola
  • Rains
  • Rusk 
  • Smith
  • Upshur
  • Van Zandt 
  • Wood

According to a press release, the program is in need of more volunteers immediately.

“I would love to be able to start training classes in January,” said Valerie Rushing, Ombudsman Program manager. “I’m just waiting for people to reach out to me and let me know they’re interested.”

Ombudsman advocate for residents' rights include dependable and consistent care and an environment that promotes the residents' dignity, self-determination, and communication, among others.

"People in a nursing home are relevant. They are human, they need help," said volunteer Don Campbell.

Volunteer ombudsman also receive and investigate complaints made by, or on behalf of, residents or their families. Since many residents do not receive regular visitors or have close relatives, it may be difficult for them to enlist advocates. 

Ombudsman serve as advocates for all residents, connecting them to their broader communities, affirming their rights and assisting them in resolving concerns.

No prior experience is required to serve as a volunteer ombudsman, but volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and able to complete a free training course that consists of both classroom study and training at local nursing homes. After training, volunteers serve an internship, working one to three hours per week in their assigned facility. 

Hours are flexible and are determined by each volunteer.

Interested volunteers may contact the Area Agency on Aging of East Texas, at 800-442-8845 or e-mail Valerie Rushing at Valerie.Rushing@etcog.org for more information.