Protecting Personal Belongings
I once met a woman when she was just moving into a long-term care residence that I visit. She had brought her own manual wheelchair because she had multiple sclerosis. As this debilitating disease gradually started to take its toll and her condition worsened, it became apparent that she needed an electric wheelchair to help her retain some mobility and navigate through the facility without assistance.
Quest for Mobility
We promptly enlisted the help of social services to apply for and receive an electric wheelchair. She decided to keep her own manual wheelchair in her room as a backup for when she was visiting family or going out with friends in their car.
She complained that the footrests to her wheelchair, which she kept in the corner of her room, had disappeared over time. I mediated the issue with the staff, who found and returned the footrests. Then, the wheelchair itself disappeared. I looked into the issue by again speaking with the staff and learned that the long-term care provider had taken the wheelchair to another one of its locations for the use of another resident.
I immediately explained that the wheelchair belonged to my resident, who had the right to do whatever she wanted with her possession. Because they were meeting the resident's needs by having obtained the electric wheelchair for her, the administration incorrectly assumed the manual wheelchair was now theirs to use because the resident was no longer using it.
After multiple discussions explaining how the wheelchair was this individual's personal property and the long-term care residence had no right to retain or use it, I negotiated a solution. It did involve a few meetings with the administrator and finally one with a family member to convince the residence to return the woman's personal property.
Being an ombudsman often requires a great deal of people skills, compassion and strength to stand up for what is right. I work with the residents to help solve their problems, which in this situation involved finding a way to protect what rightfully belongs to them. We most definitely become their VOYCE in so many ways.
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