Step up to help the elderly for the Family Services Agency

Step up to help the elderly for the Family Services Agency

Non-profit organization looking for volunteers for the ombudsman for long-term care

By Leslie Dinaberg

Giving a voice to vulnerable people is the role of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Representative, a voluntary program of the Family Services Agency. | Credit: Erick Madrid

“One of the biggest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’ In a way, we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to reach out, but we are very reluctant to ask for help when we ourselves need it. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into “those who offer help.” help” and “those who need help.” The truth is that we are both.

—Brene Brown

“As you get older, you will find that you have two hands: one to help you, the other to help others.

-Audrey Hepburn

Giving a voice to vulnerable people is the role of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Representative, a voluntary program of the Family Services Agency ( Through regular visits to Santa Barbara County’s 14 skilled nursing facilities and 119 assisted living facilities for the elderly, Ombudsman Representatives get to know residents and advocate for improved quality of life .

The program spans the entire county, from Carpinteria to Santa Maria, with more than 5,000 people under its care. “We are the extra pair of eyes and ears that help and defend them,” said Marco Quintanar, who started working in elderly care as a cook in a long-term care facility there. 30 years ago. Today, he is a leader in the field of elder care and advocacy as a supervisor of the ombudsman program, personally touring facilities and providing training and support to volunteers.

Family Services Agency Program Supervisor, Marco Quintanar. | Credit: Erick Madrid

Retired aerospace engineer Mike Leu would be considered a “super volunteer” by any measure. “I was looking for a way to stay active and reapply my skills to something new and useful,” said Leu, who came across a newspaper article about the program (run by another agency at the time). about 10 years ago and thought it looked interesting. He reached out, trained and threw himself into it, enjoying the work so much that he now covers 23 different facilities and volunteers about 70-80 hours a month.

But the two ombudsman superstars warn potential volunteers shouldn’t be intimidated by Leu’s level of work. Volunteers can commit a little or a lot of time, depending on their interest and availability.

“Part of the beauty of the ombudsman program is that you can expand it or shrink it pretty much as much as you want,” Leu said. “If you only want to devote a few hours a week to three or four small installations, you can. And then, if you’re like me and you lose control, you put a lot into it!

Today, there are only seven volunteers covering the entire county, so Quintanar hopes to double that number during its next ombudsman volunteer training this fall. “You have to want to help others,” Leu said of what they look for in volunteers, which also includes being self-motivated, comfortable communicating with people, and then willing to problem-solve in situations. complex. “The payoff in this stuff is that you’re obviously improving someone’s quality of life.”

Over its 30 years, Quintanar has seen a wide range of residents and issues. “These days, thanks to advances in technology and everything, people are living longer,” he said, which means caregivers have to deal with not only aging but also advanced mental illnesses. , like someone who has lived with Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years. “It makes it more difficult because… they have behavioral issues. It’s tough on the families and it’s tough on the residents and tough on everyone around them. It’s not their fault, but they need care. That’s why we are here.

Both men agree that this work is very rewarding. “If you make a difference in someone’s life, even listening to that person, it makes you feel very good,” Quintanar said. “And you don’t need anyone to say thank you.”

To learn more about becoming a Certified Volunteer Ombudsman or other ways to support Family Services Agency programs for seniors, call Marco Quintanar at (805) 922-1236 or visit

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