VOYCE, formerly the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, would like to increase the number of volunteers in the Franklin County area.

Currently, the program has three ombudsman volunteers in two skilled nursing facilities, however, it could potentially have ombudsmen in 10 of the skilled nursing facilities throughout Franklin County if more volunteers were available.

The job of a volunteer ombudsman is to visit area nursing homes to ensure that the residents enjoy the best quality of life possible. Every week ombudsmen drive to a nursing home to spend four hours a week with residents.

“To many residents, our volunteers are just like family,” said Susan Press, volunteer and special events coordinator. “Some of the residents may not even know that their official title is ‘Ombudsman,’ but what is important is that they know how much they care — about them and that they are there to help.

“As a volunteer ombudsman, your job is to ensure that the residents enjoy the best quality of life possible,” said Press. “You talk to them about their legal rights, listen to their concerns and go room to room to meet with 20-25 residents each week.

“You encourage them to speak up for themselves and when necessary, meet with the facility coordinator to encourage a solution.”

VOYCE strives toward a high quality of life for those living on the long-term care continuum by designating someone to speak on behalf of the individual.

“We train ombudsmen to identify issues, isolate particular causes of concern and skillfully resolve any challenges with compassion and respect,” said Press.

Training sessions will be held at the Washington library Wednesday, Aug. 27, and Wednesday, Sept. 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Pre-screening is required. People who are interested in possibly volunteering should contact Press at spress@voycestl.org or 314-919-2406 to apply.

VOYCE was founded in 1979 in St. Louis following the formation of the nationwide Long Term Care Ombudsman Program under the Older Americans Act of 1978. Congress created this Act in response to public outcry over abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities. Today, every state has an established Ombudsman Program — more than 500 programs operate across the United States.

VOYCE fulfills its mission as an advocate and information source in 21 counties, including the city of St. Louis and the counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson.

Volunteer opportunities also are available at VOYCE in fund development, event management, outreach, public relations, volunteer development, advocacy and administration.

Donations also are accepted. VOYCE relies on the community for much of its funding, including individual gifts, foundation grants and corporate contributions.

These allow VOYCE to provide free assistance to families and individuals seeking long-term care for loved ones, as well as advocacy for those currently living in long-term care settings.

For more information, people can visit www.voycestl.org.