Ruth Hartnett, 84, of Springettsbury Township, said she doesn’t handle “life or death” situations as a volunteer in York County’s “Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.”
Instead, she said her focus is on helping nursing home residents advocate for themselves.
One of her favorite examples of what she does occurred a few years ago, and Hartnett said it involved an “impeccably dressed” woman who was “pushing 100-years-old.”
The woman, who was new to Pleasant Acres Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, wanted to wear shoes “that had a little heel to them,” Hartnett said.
Staff members worried she would fall.
And they wanted her to wear flat shoes.
The woman viewed that as a personal insult to her way of life, Hartnett said.
“The real problem in that case, as in many cases, is when you go into a home you lose control,” Hartnett said. “… It’s very, very frustrating. I think that’s one of the hardest things for people.”
So she talked to the staff and the woman. And a compromise was reached.
The woman would try out wearing shoes with small heels . Staff would monitor.
If it didn’t work, they’d go the flat shoe route. If it did work, they’d continue to reevaluate. That seemed to make everyone happy, Hartnett said.
She visits Pleasant Acres three or four times a month to talk with residents about those types of issues. For more serious issues, Hartnett said she’ll notify a professional ombudsman.
“I’ve enjoyed my work. It’s nice to be helpful to people. And, of course, I’m one of them,” said Hartnett. “I’m older than a heck of a lot of people in there, but I have enjoyed good health.”