By Michelle Colesanti

Founded in 1975, Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program grants a special set of residents’ rights to individuals living in facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes.

The mission is to improve the quality of life for all Florida long-term care residents by advocating for and protecting their health, safety, welfare and rights. Trained volunteer ombudsmen seek to ensure the health, safety, welfare and rights of residents throughout Florida.

Nearly 60 percent of long-term care residents in Florida do not receive visits from family members and friends. They may feel alone and isolated and feel they have no voice in the daily care they receive. Unfortunately, many of them do not have anyone to look out for their best interests.

Volunteer ombudsmen are community members from all walks of life who are passionate about improving the life for residents living in long-term care facilities. There is a great need to find volunteers in the local Brandon, Valrico, Lithia, and SouthShore areas.

Shannon N. Knowles, Communications Director for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, said, “We receive calls for advice, to provide assistance with concerns, and to visit facilities to conduct assessments from a resident’s perspective.”

Most volunteers serve at least 20 hours per month. They are trained to work with residents and their family members to communicate concerns and resolve problems by providing advocacy, support, education and empowerment. These volunteers simply want their time and talents to make a difference in improving the lives of people who may be elderly and/or disabled.

“Volunteers are the heart of our program and assist us in our mission to improve the quality of life for all Florida long-term care residents by advocating for and protecting their health, safety, welfare, and rights,” said Knowles.

For individuals looking for an opportunity to help make a difference in the community, the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program currently has volunteer opportunities available in local areas. Volunteers visit with residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect and receiving the care they deserve. Ombudsman volunteers receive special training and participate in monthly program meetings. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit, call toll-free at 888-831-0404 or on Facebook under Florida’s Ombudsman Program.

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