Perhaps it’s her big smile, the friendly eyes behind her wire-rimmed glasses or the way she doesn’t let a simple “I’m fine” pass without a follow-up question.
Judith Sullivan, 66, is a volunteer with the Coulee Region Volunteer Ombudsman Program for the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care. Once a week she knocks on the doors of resident rooms at Bethany St. Joseph Care Center in La Crosse. She asks about the food, the staff and their overall well-being. She typically hears no complaint. But, when residents have a problem, she isn’t afraid to tell the administration.
“My role here is (to be) the eyes of the public and the voice of the residents,” she said.
....The Volunteer Ombudsman Program was started in 1994 to reduce the burden on regional ombudsmen — 14 paid employees who monitor 400 nursing homes in the state. In 2008, the program expanded to 20 new counties, including those in the Coulee Region, said Karen Price, coordinator of the program. Eight volunteer ombudsmen are now serving in La Crosse County, and Price is searching for more. The main qualifications? Be open-minded and care about others, Price said.