Harold Hartman, Marjorie Newman, and Mary Vander-Voort, residents at Paul’s Run Retirement Community have graduated from the Pennsylvania Department of Aging’s “Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents (PEER)” course. The ten hour course, taught by a state-certified ombudsman, teaches residents about residents’ rights, and provides training on self-advocacy, problem solving and negotiating.
These newly graduated PEERs will now serve as mentors in the Paul’s Run community and as a resource to other residents. “It gives the residents someone that they can talk to and go to with any concerns that they might have,” said Patricia Warnick, the volunteer ombudsmen and PEER educator who taught the course at Paul’s Run. “It helps the residents to have more of a voice.”
The PEERs help residents to problem solve on their own, or will direct the resident to the person who will best be able to help them. PEERs also serve as mentors to new residents, helping them to become acclimated and familiar with the community. “It provides a support system for the residents,” said Lynda Pickett, manager of the Philadelphia Long Term Care Ombudsman program.
Patricia says that being a PEER also helps residents to stay active and maintain a sense of worth. “People who have served and worked in the past don’t want to stop working,” she said.
Harold agrees. “It gives me something worthwhile to do,” he said.
Lynda says that the PEERs are also role models. “It takes a certain amount of bravery to advocate within the community that you live,” she said.
“I used to be afraid to speak up, but now I’m not anymore,” Marjorie said. “When you’re a minority in society, you tend to be forgotten. I want the voices of the residents to be heard.”
“You are the experts, you live here, you know what life is like. We really value your feedback because this is your home,” Lynda told the PEERs.
Glenn Jackomonis, the volunteer ombudsman for Paul’s Run, comes to Paul’s Run at least once a month to visit with residents, families and administrators, and address any concerns that the residents have. He will meet with the PEERs regularly, and he and Patricia will provide continuing education.
“Our goal is for the residents to do self-resolution. We want to step in as little as possible. When you have different personalities together, there’s going to be conflict. We all have conflict in our own homes. Now the residents have internal people that they can go to, and if the PEERs can’t help to resolve the problem we are available 24 hours a day,” Glenn said. “Paul’s Run is one of my favorite communities to work with. There are very few issues. You have great administrators and great staff.”
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