Pasco and North Pinellas District-Wide Resident Council Meeting

Resident & Lynn Penley, District Ombudsman Manager

On Wednesday, October 10, 2012, ombudsmen welcomed 19 residents from 4 nursing homes and 2 assisted living facilities to the Pasco and North Pinellas District-Wide Resident Council meeting. The council celebrated Residents’ Rights Month with the “I Have The Right” chant and residents proudly displayed resident rights flowers and fans. Special guest Doris Graumann, from the office of Representative Richard Corcoran, joined in the celebration and made note of the council issues.

"I won!!" - Residents enjoying the raffle.

The council president shared a letter from the office of Governor Rick Scott stating regret he could not attend the meeting but wants to be informed of future meetings.

Highlights of the discussion included:

· How we celebrate Residents’ Rights Month and show
tribute toresidents and ombudsmen, citizen advocates,
facility staff, and family members who work to promote
and support residents’ rights.
· The “best” thing about life in MY nursing home/assisted
OThe way things are run and problems are handled.
O The food, meeting friends, and the way they take care
of us.
OThe bingo, beautiful view of the water, the people,

· What "needs improvement" in MY nursing home/assisted
OLocal Medicaid transportation company are hours late
to appointments.
O We have no transportation. We never go out into the
community, no walks, no outside events.
OWe have a problem getting the CNAs to answer the
call lights. They are very busy.
· What needs change in Florida.

O The cost of living needs to increase.
O $35.00 a month is not much money to cover
· Resident’s Council successes.
OWe have a group meeting every week, rather than once a month. It resolves issues quickly, is more informal, and more people show up to enjoy chatting and sharing.

Resident Participants from:
Madison Pointe Rehabilitation and Health Center (host facility)
The Oaks of Clearwater
Orchard Ridge Care and Rehabilitation Center
Southern Pines Healthcare Center
Summit at New Port Richey
Windsor Woods Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center

Robin Baker, Regional Ombudsman Manager with a resident
Flowers and fans for residents to enjoy.

Ombudsman, Resident Council President, and Lynn Penley.
Special Guest, Doris Graumann, speaking to residents.

Showing off her raffle prize!

Lynn Penley speaking to residents.
Program staff, facility staff, and ombudsmen.



(850) 510-3920


TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program wishes to make Floridians aware of the rights bestowed on long-term care residents across the state. Residents of adult family care homes, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes are given a list of rights upon admission.

Residents, family members, and other interested parties may contact the Ombudsman Program to make complaints against facilities when they believe a resident’s rights have been violated. Such concerns include a resident not being treated with respect, lack of choice in daily activities, and more serious accusations such as medication errors and inappropriate discharges.

Ombudsmen volunteers and program staff coordinate with facilities, resident councils, and community organizations to discuss resident rights and why they are important. “It is absolutely necessary that residents in long-term care settings feel as though they have the same rights as if they were living in their own homes”, says Jim Crochet, Florida’s State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. “They maintain the right to personal decisions, observing their religious traditions, and the right to vote. It is a matter of dignity and respect all Floridians deserve.”

If you have further interest in the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, please visit our website for the full list of resident rights, local council meeting dates and locations as well as information to become a volunteer specializing in residents’ rights. All program services, including individualized response to residents’ concerns are free. To reach your local office call 1-888-831-0404.

Lynn Penley, Ombudsman, Speaks To Members

(Original content from The Guardian Angel newsletter)

"Lynn V. Penley, District Ombudsman Manager for the Ombudsman Program, spoke to attendees at the August meeting of the Suncoast Guardian Association. She told of the structure of the organization in Pasco / Pinellas Counties – 20 volunteers and 2 paid staff. The volunteers undergo 20 hours of training before they are sent out to the various assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

Lynn Penley, Pasco & North Pinellas District Ombudsman Manager
Besides routine visits to facilities, the office opens about 30 cases per month. Most cases are not serious ones, e.g. staff not answering call bells in a timely fashion or resident having issues with the food. Statewide, there were some 8,363 investigations in the 2008/2009 period. Ms. Penley said guardians could use the Ombudsman office as a resource, also. By calling the local office, the guardian can obtain complaint information/history on a particular facility. Obviously, the guardian can also call a complaint into the Ombudsman office, if he/she can’t seem to have satisfactory resolution with management on an issue pertaining to the Ward.

The Cottages of Port Richey hosted the meeting, with several of their staff attending and introducing themselves. Chef Tony provided a quite elaborate spread, manning two pans of different pasta sauces, cooking each diners choice individually. Many thanks, once again, to the Cottages of Port Richey for their hospitality. They are not only very willing and hospitable hosts, but if several months go by without a guardian meeting there, they phone to see why we’re not calling them!"

Lynn Penley, Ombudsman, Speaks To Members.” The Guardian Angel. Volume 3 Issue 9 (Sept. 2012): 3-4. Print.

Pasco and North Pinellas District-Wide Resident Council Meeting

Villas at Lakeside Oaks assisted with hosting the Pasco and North Pinellas district-wide resident council meeting on July 12. Over 26 residents representing 10 facilities benefited from hearing guest speaker, Nancy Adams of the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, discuss voting deadlines, mail-in ballots, and other election topics. Council members approved the previous meeting’s minutes as presented. Attending residents were also able to gain assistance with registering to vote and requesting mail-in ballots.

Ricky Melendez, Resident Council President

Resident Council President, Ricky Melendez, reported on the council'ssuccessful aluminum can fundraiser and donations to charities. Mr. Melendez also shared a scrapbook created by residents and encouraged other resident councils to get involved.

Council Member

Residents revisited the suggestion that facility staff coordinate sharing resident transportation in an effort to decrease cost and increase quality of life opportunities. Residents also discussed several issues concerning quality of life, voted to share meeting minutes with local legislators and the Governor, and discussed inviting them to the October meeting. Additionally, residents noted their success with Clearwater Center who has Internet access and a computer for resident use,providing a better quality of life.

Residents raised concerns about the following facility issues:

· Residents who are “screamers” or who scream for no apparentreason causing disruptions. Suggestions included wearing headphones, letting the resident know you are there for them, and involving staff or other residents in helping the resident feel secure.
· Living with residents who are hard to get along with. Suggestions included increased activities, talking with staff, and avoiding those residents.
The meeting was adjourned and the council thanked Villas at Lakeside Oaks for hosting. The next meeting will be held on October 10, 2012 at Madison Point Rehab Center in New Port Richey.

Thank you Charlotte Poss

Charlotte Poss has been a wonderful ombudsman volunteer, serving on the Withlacoochee Ombudsman Council. Since 2005, Charlotte has been a certified and active ombudsman volunteer. Seeing her mother-in-law mistreated in a facility was the spark that compelled her to become an ombudsman. With her professional experience as a paralegal tribal court advocate, it is no surprise at her natural ability to advocate for long-term care facility residents. Given her previous employment, she recognizes the importance of being a voice for those living in long-term care facilities that may not be able to speak up for themselves.

Helen Anderson, Withlacoochee District Manager said, "It is evident that Charlotte loves residents and advocating for their rights. Charlotte has been a pillar of strong advocacy within the Withlacoochee council. Her willingness to volunteer and serve her time for the last five years has contributed to much of the success as a whole ofthe advocacy efforts here inthe Withlacoochee district.”

“Her commitment to volunteering is a picture of the heart of advocacy; sacrificing her time and agenda to act on behalf of others,” said Anderson. “Thank you Charlotte!"

Thank you for the spirit of advocacy you showed as an ombudsman and the donated timegiven tovolunteer and protect the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents living in long-term care facilities. We wish you luck in your future endeavors and a safe move. You will be missed!

(L-R) Helen Anderson, Charlotte Poss

(L-R) Marie Brand, Charlotte Poss,and Ginny Winkel

Charlotte Poss

Helen Anderson awarding and thanking Charlotte Poss for her time as a volunteer ombudsman

Pasco and North Pinellas District-Wide Resident Council Meeting

Trinity Regional Rehabilitation hosted a successful district-wide resident council meeting on April 17 in coordination with the Ombudsman Program. Approximately 20 residents representing 9 facilities benefited from a guest presentation about individualized care plans, approved bylaws, voted on a new council secretary, approved sharing minutes with legislators, chose host facilities for the year, and enjoyed raffle gifts.

Residents discussed their needs for more affordable transportation to events, more responsive staff, and more lifts that certain residents may need to use.

Residents discussed suggestions for successful facility activities. These included:
q Learn sign language or foreign language to communicate with residents who do not speak English or who have lost the ability to speak.
q Culture days - Residents and staff share personal photos, foods, experiences, and stories from other countries. Residents can be guest speakers on their experiences living/traveling in other countries to residents, staff, local visiting children, etc.
q Participating with Volunteer GrandKids program or other school groups with the opportunity for the residents to give to the community and to teach children how to interact with adults and share experiences.
q Community charity drives
o Save soda cans for Cancer Society of All Children’s Hospital.
o “Lazy Dog Days” with dogs coming to visit from local groups with food and raffle profits benefiting the Humane Society.

Residents from the facilities look forward to the next district-wide resident council meeting.

Gayle Mountain awarded the Don Hering "Excellence in Advocacy Award"

Vivid orange sneakers may not be the norm in a nursing home but residents look forward to seeing these shoes; it means Gayle Mountain is there to advocate on their behalf. Gayle has been a certified ombudsman with the Pasco and North Pinellas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council for almost four years and her efforts are being recognized. This year, she has been selected by her local and state peers to receive the Don Hering “Excellence in Advocacy Award.” Her dedication is apparent in her smiling face, signature orange shoes, and numerous hours advocating for elders and others who live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult family-care homes that may not otherwise have a voice. Gayle has traveled over 5,301 miles, devoted 815 hours, and investigated 85 complaint cases in the past year, and she’s not slowing down! Gayle and her fellow volunteers investigate concerns including abuse, lack of dignity and respect, lack of assistance, food issues, and violations of basic rights.
During National Volunteer Week, Gayle Mountain was honored with the Don Hering “Excellence in Advocacy Award”. There were several special guests in attendance including Liz Hittos, the District Director to Congressman Gus Bilirakis (9th District), Jared Ochs, the Legislative Assistant to State Representative Richard Corcoran (District 45), and State Senator Mike Fasano (District 11). Liz Hittos and State Senator Fasano both spoke to the group praising Gayle's accomplishment and thankingall the volunteers for their wonderful work.

After the announcement, volunteer appreciation continued. Each volunteer was presented with gifts from District Manager Lynn Penley,special recognition from Communities for a Lifetime, and special letters from State Representative Richard Corcoran. State Senator Mike Fasano shook each volunteer's hand and thanked them all for their special work.

Thank you Gayle Mountain and all the Pasco and North Pinellas volunteer ombudsmen, for your work to advocate for the health, safety, welfare, and rights of long-term care facility residents!

(L-R) Carol Weideman, Gayle Mountain, Don Hering

(L-R) State Senator Mike Fasano, Gayle Mountain

(L-R) Liz Hittos, the District Director to Congressman Gus Bilirakis, Gayle Mountain

(L-R) Jared Ochs, the Legislative Assistant to State Representative Richard Corcoran, Liz Hittos, the District Director to Congressman Gus Bilirakis, State Senator Mike Fasano

(L-R) District Manager Lynn Penley, Gayle Mountain

Pasco and North Pinellas Council and special guests

Introducing the “Ask Mary" column

What do I look for when choosing a long-term care facility? My mother says she doesn’t like the food at the assisted living facility she’s in. Does she have a choice? Where can I go to get help?

Mary Bruels, three year veteran ombudsman volunteer of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program often hears questions like these while conducting facility visits or complaint investigations at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, or adult family-care homes.

"The way society treats its children and elderly is very telling. There’s not a lot I can do to change how we treat the elderly on a global basis but on a one by one basis, I like to think I can make it better. If I make it better for that one person, then I hope someone will do that for me one day," said Bruels.

Bruels is one of the 300 plus volunteers that make up the unique and mostly volunteer run Ombudsman Program. Ombudsmen volunteers are trained and certified to take complaints from or on behalf of residents living in long-term care facilities. Volunteers also educate family, caregivers, residents, facility staff, and consumers about important rights given to residents upon entering a facility. Volunteers from the program’s 17 districts across Florida assist residents with questions about long-term care, resident rights, and what to look for when visiting and choosing a facility.

Choosing a long-term care facility like a nursing home, assisted living facility, or adult family-care home can be a daunting task. Knowing where to get help to navigate the roadways of long-term care can be more than a little confusing and as Baby Boomers and their parents age, the discussion of long-term care is likely to arise.

After retiring as a director of provider relations, responsible for the development and implementation of a statewide (Florida) network of specialty physicians for a workers’ compensation network, Bruels was looking for a way to serve the community. Little did she know she was about to jump into the world of long-term care and become an expert on the subject. It all started when Bruels received a phone call from her sister.

"My sister saw a booth about the Ombudsman Program at a convention and recommended I check it out for volunteer opportunities. Later, I saw an advertisement in the newspaper and decided to call and get more information," said Bruels, "And the rest is history."

Bruels quickly rose into leadership positions within the program, serving as state representative for the Pinellas and Pasco District. As the state representative Bruels assisted in rolling up issues and concerns from the local level to the state level. Currently, Bruels serves as the district chair for the Mid and South Pinellas District. As the district chair, Bruels focuses on leading the council in cooperation with the district manager.

"Mary Bruels is an outstanding ombudsman with a thorough understanding of residents’ rights," said former Mid and South Pinellas District Manager, Natalie Clanzy. "She has the knowledge and experience needed to be a strong advocate for residents. She conducts thorough investigations and follows through to ensure issues are resolved. Her leadership skills have been a great asset to residents, facilities, fellow ombudsmen, and the community."

Bruels understands the importance of partnering with ombudsmen staff as well as other state agencies and stakeholders to reach a common goal of ensuring that long-term care residents’ rights are protected.

"When a resident looks me in the eye and says thank you for your help, you listened to me and I really appreciate it, that’s the greatest reward I get from volunteering," said Bruels. "Working to solve one problem for one resident may have a positive effect on a whole lot of residents. I like working on a global level to solve a local problem."

Considering the work Bruels does, it was no surprise that she agreed to be the lady behind the “Ask an Ombudsman” column.

“Many people are unfamiliar with the Ombudsman Program and the services it provides to long-term care facility residents. With long-term care becoming more of a hot topic across the state, I’m excited to see how this column will answer people’s questions and serve the community," said Bruels.

If you would like to submit a question to Mary Bruels about long-term care, please send them via email to ltcopinformer@elderaffairs.orgtitled "Ask Mary." Look for a response in one of the next issues of the Island Reporter or on this blog.
Mary Bruels, volunteer ombudsman

District-Wide Resident Council Meeting

October is Residents' Rights Month

October is nationally recognized as Residents’ Rights Month, an initiative of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. This year’s theme is “Welcome Home: Creating Connections Between Residents and the Community.”

When an individual moves into a long-term care facility like a nursing home, assisted living facility or adult family-care home, he or she gains a special set of rights in addition to those they maintain as a United States citizen. These rights range from the right to choose a physician and pharmacy to unrestricted private communication and reasonable opportunity to exercise and go outdoors at regular intervals.

Several of the 17 Florida Ombudsman Program districts hosted or participated in special events for Residents’ Rights Month, meeting with long-term care residents, families, facility staff, agency partners and community officials. The 17 plus volunteers in the Withlacoochee district hosted a Resident Council Summit. 28 residents from 10 different long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, attended along with several facility staff members.

“We had an interactive discussion with residents and caregivers,” said Withlacoochee District Manager, Helen Anderson. “We stressed the importance of residents maintaining the right of being a part of the outside community, where they live.”

Residents spoke about recognizing the reciprocal relationship they share with caregivers. Research shows supportive relationships are critical to well-being. Residents also shared what their favorite right was. Many residents expressed that their favorite right as a resident, was maintaining the ability to make their own decisions and choices, like picking what time to get up in the morning or choosing to enter or leave the facility when they wanted. Other residents expressed having the freedom to practice their individual religious preference, as their favorite right.

Check out the pictures from the Resident Council Summit, below!


On the other side of the state, Treasure Coast District Manager, Kevin McKeown, and local volunteer ombudsmen met with city officials to read Governor Rick Scott’s proclamation of October as Residents’ Rights Month for Florida. There were two readings of the proclamation, one in Indian River County and the other in Martin County. Members of the public and county commissioners were in attendance.
“I was honored to be given this opportunity to speak about Residents’ Rights Month and share information about our program and the diligent work our volunteers do to protect the health, safety, welfare and rights of long-term care facility residents,” said McKeown.

Events hosted by several other districts across Florida included the Panhandle District Chair, Linda Putnam, speaking to residents at the Marianna Health and Rehabilitation Center on resident rights, a Resident Council Chair meeting in Volusia and Flagler counties and a District-wide Resident Council meeting in Gainesville and Tarpon Springs.

“Residents’ Rights Month is a way we can respect and commemorate a population that has given us so much,” said State Ombudsman, Jim Crochet. “It also gives us an opportunity to educate the community on the Ombudsman Program’s mission, making sure these rights of long-term care facility residents are protected."

Honoring rights of long-term care residents should not be limited to just one month of the year. As the holidays approach, think about visiting someone in an assisted living facility or nursing home. Often times, a volunteer ombudsman is the only visitor a resident in a long-term care facility will see.

Local Ombudsmen Step in to Help Residents of Palazzo Di Oro

Within minutes of receiving a call regarding the possible closure of Palazza Di Oro, an assisted living facility in Pinellas County, Natalie Clanzy, the District Ombudsman Manager, stepped into overtime to work on behalf of residents. Local ombudsmen volunteers rallied around Natalie to ensure residents were well educated about their moving options. “We wanted to make sure residents were given a choice about which assisted living facility to move to and ensure that their personal belongings go with them to their new place,” stated Natalie.

Ombudsmen volunteers and staff worked in concert with Palazza Di Oro administrator and the Florida Assisted Living Association (FALA) to invite local assisted living facilities to a coordinated function at Palazza Di Oro. Over 50 facilities were in attendance, displaying their services and amenities to residents. “I was impressed with the way the ombudsmen volunteers assisted with the event and the number of assisted living facilities that participated,” stated Regional Ombudsman Manager, Diane Carpenter, “This may be a difficult transition for many residents. With such a diligent group of ombudsmen volunteers and staff, I know they will continue to assist residents in making the move as smoothly as possible.”

If you or someone you know lives in a long-term care facility and needs help, call the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Toll-Free today at 1-888-831-0404 or visit All services are confidential and free of charge.

Mike Phillips, Northwest Florida District Ombudsman Manager, shares dedication of three outstanding volunteers and nominates them for the Shining Star recognition.

The Northwest Florida Long-Term Ombudsman Council’s jurisdiction spans 100 miles east to west and is currently serviced by three active ombudsmen who will go anywhere at any time to alleviate and resolve the concerns of residents in long-term care facilities. Never have I experienced a group of volunteers with such a passion and dedication for the elderly. And, how can I praise one and not all three when each draws his strength and commitment from the shared values and mission of the Council to which they have pledged themselves?
Anne Manning currently serves the Council as its Chair, a function she has performed many times in her 12-year tenure. Even with the personal hardships she is experiencing, she refuses to give up and continues to provide the Council with her wisdom and grace and residents with her tenacious (but always disarmingly friendly) determination to resolve and correct facility practices that impinge on their rights. She is the epitome of self-giving.
Jim Evans, in his nearly 11 years of service, has always been a pillar of strength and wisdom for the Northwest Council. His huge heart has a permanent place in it reserved for the elderly. In spite of the oil spill that wreaked havoc on his business ventures in the area last year, Jim still found time to reach out and help the elderly – lending his voice, his clear reasoning, his extensive knowledge, and his passionate persuasion to their cause. He is the quintessential humble servant.
Ray Sykes has served on the Council for nearly four years and in addition to fulfilling his responsibilities as a representative on the State Council, Ray completed over 1/3 of the Council’s assessments in 2010 and was asking if there was more he could do to help out because of our shortage of ombudsmen. Intelligent, soft-spoken and filled with compassion, Ray meticulously investigates the residents’ complaints as if they were his own and doesn’t quit until a suitable resolution is found. Couldn’t find a gentler and caring man than Ray.
Without a doubt because of the effort and dedication of these three volunteers, long-term care residents in Northwest Florida are getting their voices heard.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) is a statewide, volunteer-based system of local units that act as advocates for residents of long-term care facilities. The LTCOP was established by Title VII of the federal Older Americans Act and its operation is governed by state statute, part I of Chapter 400, Florida Statutes. Through 13 district offices that together cover the entire state, volunteers work with staff to identify, investigate, and resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family-care homes, and continuing care retirement communities. In addition to investigating and resolving complaints, the LTCOP performs the following services or activities:

  • Monitoring of and commenting on the development and implementation of federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and policies regarding health, safety, and welfare of residents in long-term care facilities.
  • Conducting annual assessments of long-term care facilities.
  • Aiding the development of resident and family councils.

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Click on the image on the left to learn about volunteer opportunities to help improve the lives of Floridians by advocating on behalf of those who live in long-term care settings such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and adult family care homes.

State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council

About the Council

  • Created by section 400.0067, F.S.
  • Serve as an advisory body to assist the state ombudsman in reaching a consensus among districts on issues affecting residents and impacting the optimal operation of the program.
  • Identifies statewide issues affecting long-term care facility residents and coordinates voluntary organizational assistance for the purpose of improving the care received by residents.
  • Assists the state ombudsman in preparing the annual report described in s. 400.0065.
  • The State Council meets at least quarterly, either by telephone conference or an in-person meeting.
  • State Council members shall serve 3-year terms and may not serve more than two consecutive terms
  • The State Council is composed of one active certified ombudsman from each local unit within a district (18 local units) plus three at-large members appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs.

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For more information, contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at 850-414-2323 or toll free at 1-888-831-0404. You may also email us at