Friday, 20 October 2017

Because No Senior Should Be Forgotten


Our SmileMakers Guild mobilizes community support to provide holiday gifts to seniors and disabled adults in skilled nursing and residential care facilities every year.

Thousands of these seniors are isolated and alone, having no family or friends with whom they can share special moments like the holidays.

Our SmileMakers coordinate with our Ombudsmen to provide individually wrapped gifts to thousands of long-term care residents who would otherwise be forgotten.

Adopt an Angel Gift from our SmileMakers Wish List. The SmileMakers Wish List is on Amazon to fulfill Angel Tags requested from isolated seniors across Orange County.

Learn more about how you can get involved and bring a smile to someone in need. Call (714) 479-0107 x 239 or

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

RSVP to our Ombudsman Spring Training

Are you looking for meaningful volunteer work that will change lives? Our Ombudsman Program is holding their Spring Training Session and is looking to train caring people to serve as advocates for seniors who are often alone and forgotten in long-term care facilities across Orange County.

Ombudsman Volunteer Orientation
February 22nd from 10-11:30am

Ombudsman Spring Training Session
March 28-30th and April 4-6th from 10am-3pm
at our Irvine office

RSVP to Patricia Johnson to attend at 714-479-0129 or pmjohnson@coasc.orgPre-registration is required.LTC Spring Training



Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Ombudsman on Front Page in the Orange County Register!

O.C. woman listens to the elderly when others turn away

Lahoma Snyder, an ombudsman, advocates for residents of assisted living homes who may not have anyone else on their side.

Paulina Kosareff, left, tells Lahoma Snyder that she “loves” living at the Robin's Nest, an Anaheim board-and-care home.BY THERESA WALKER / STAFF WRITER  Published: July 27, 2014

Lahoma Snyder heads to the second floor of La Palma Royale, an assisted living residence in Anaheim, when she passes an aged man inching down a hallway, stooped over his walker.“You need help?” she asks.“No,” he says. “Thank you.”The conversation is part of Snyder’s job. As a residential care ombudsman, Snyder’s profession is to look out for the interests of people like the man with the walker.About 28,000 Orange County residents live in long-term care, and at least half don’t have friends or family to advocate for them.That’s where the Orange County Council on Aging’s Ombudsman Program steps in, with men and women like Snyder who pay attention to individual needs.

Ombudsmen don’t regulate the facilities, but state law says they must be allowed access and the opportunity to meet privately with residents.

Snyder is 80, almost certainly the oldest ombudsman in Orange County. At an age when her contemporaries might be seeking to move into an assisted living home, she works nearly full time keeping such places accountable.

Two knee surgeries have slowed her down, and during a recent visit Snyder jokes with the operators of the Robin’s Nest, an Anaheim board-and-care home on her rounds, to save a room for her.

But Snyder, who makes herself available 24/7, has no intention of retiring anytime soon.

“I hope I can make it a few more years, till I can’t walk and I can’t talk,” says Snyder, who keeps her blond hair long and her nails well-manicured.

“I can’t imagine not being able to go out there and look out for the welfare of these people who have no one. I just couldn’t sleep at night.”

Nothing escapes her eyes, her ears, her nose.

Or her heart.

Inside the elevator at La Palma Royale, she recognizes another older man.

“You still smelling smoke?” she asks him.

A while back, the man had been staying in a room where he was bothered by secondhand cigarette smoke. Snyder spoke to management and got his room changed.

“It’s a dream come true,” the man tells Snyder.

“Thanks to you.”

Lahoma Snyder examines a scratch on Barbara Johnson's head during a visit to the Robin's Nest.


Snyder is one of 16 paid ombudsmen who routinely check on the welfare of residents in the county’s 1,100 licensed long-term care facilities. They also respond to complaints about unlicensed facilities.

Another 70 people volunteer as ombudsmen for the nonprofit program, which started in 1976 and operates under both state and federal mandates.

Snyder’s compassion for the elderly stems from her childhood in Wichita, Kan. An 11-year-old Lahoma – it’s an Indian name meaning “peace and tranquility” – spent afternoons after school helping an elderly neighbor with arthritis. She was paid $1 a week.

She and her husband raised four children in Stanton. Her husband died two years ago. She still lives in the home they bought in 1963.

Years spent working part time providing in-home services to shut-ins, and time spent taking care of her husband’s elderly mother, father, aunt, uncle and grandmother, gave Snyder insight into the needs of the elderly. She also learned about the limitations of what families can or will provide.

She started with the ombudsman program in 1992, attracted by an ad in the PennySaver.

There were so few volunteers back then that she made the rounds of 106 facilities.

Now Snyder is assigned to 14 residences, all in Anaheim, ranging from converted houses with six beds to 200-bed complexes.

Most residents in long-term care are seniors. Many don’t have much income, relying on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income.

And they often are reluctant to speak to management or other authorities if something – or someone – is bothering them.

Unannounced inspections are rare from the state agencies charged with overseeing the county’s network of small board-and-care homes, large assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing homes.

While the state isn’t often around, ombudsmen like Snyder are.

“Without us, there would be nobody looking out for these people,” says Kathleen Weidner, who became director of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program five years ago

An ombudsman’s role can range from something as simple as Snyder’s “You need help?” to contacting police when there is suspicion of abuse, or filing complaints with state authorities.

Most often, they try to work with facility owners and staff, educating and negotiating to address the concerns of residents or their family members.

In 2008, state budget cuts nearly wiped out the ombudsman program, cutting 15 of 18 paid staff. All but one continued working as volunteers.

Late last year, the program got a boost, with a $675,000 Pacific Foundation grant, spread over three years. Money also comes from the federal government and other private donations.

Snyder, who survived the budget cuts, is paid for 30 hours a week through a federal block grant awarded by the Anaheim City Council.

But she’s no clock watcher.

“If I get on something, I stick with it until it’s finished.”

 Ombudsman Lahoma Snyder, left, shares a laugh with Suzanne Hawley, 68, who resides at La Palma Royale, an assisted living facility in Anaheim.


Technically, an ombudsman is not supposed to get personally involved.

“I’m probably the worst ombudsman at this,” Snyder says about keeping a professional distance. “I just can’t help it.”

Weidner recalls working with Snyder during one of her first days as program director. They went to visit a woman who complained that her one pair of shoes had been stolen.

“I guess she had told Lahoma that before, because Lahoma digs into her purse and pulls out a pair of shoes. I go, ‘What?’I’m thinking, ‘God, I love this woman.’”

Snyder had paid for the shoes herself. After that, the program created a “dignity fund” to help pay for basic items that cost $100 or less.

Snyder likes to drop in at mealtimes to see what the residents are fed and chat as they eat. At one place, she stayed for several meals because, she says, “I couldn’t figure out what the food was.”

She suggested the home begin serving meat, potatoes and vegetables.

During her recent afternoon visit to La Palma Royale, Snyder spends time discussing medication needs and favorite authors with resident Suzanne Hawley, a writer who likes Joyce Carol Oates and Jeffrey Eugenides.

“If I come across any of their books, I’ll know to get them for you,” Snyder says.

Anthony Bertolet is president of the La Palma Royale residents’ council. He credits Snyder for the voice she lends to the concerns of the elderly in long-term care facilities where social workers are lacking.

“We’d be in trouble. We need Lahoma,” says Bertolet, who has spent 12 years in assisted living. “She does all the stuff we need to get done, that we can’t do ourselves.”

Snyder says she feels fortunate to be able to provide some dignity and protection.

“I’ve enriched my life more than I’ve probably enriched someone else’s.”

Snyder listens to Anthony Bertolet, president of the residents' council at La Palma Royale in Anaheim. As an ombudsman with the Council on Aging, Snyder is an advocate for people in long-term care.

What ombudsmen do

Here are some numbers from a report detailing the activity of the Council on Aging’s ombudsmen from July 2012-June 2013:

5,444 unannounced visits to long-term care facilities

1,499 complaints received and responded to

713 resident council meetings attended

293 advanced healthcare directives witnessed

389 abuse allegations received

Source: Kathleen Weidner, director of Orange County Council on Aging Ombudsman Program

 Ombudsmen Lahoma Snyder, foreground left, asks Irma Erickson, a resident at Anaheim Residential Care, how she's feeling. Snyder makes sure there are no medications lying around the bathroom counter, that knives and other dangerous items are out of reach, the first aid closet is locked and more.

Find out more

Issues that the Council on Aging’s residential care advocates deal with include: physical mistreatment of residents; lost or stolen personal items: infection control; timely and correct dispensing of medications; cleanliness and maintenance; food and activities.

Call 714-479-0107 or 800-300-6222 to find out more about the ombudsman program.

Volunteers are asked to commit to at least 12 hours a month. There is a particular need for more volunteers who speak Vietnamese or Korean.

More information is available by clicking on “Advocacy & Protection” at

Contact the writer: 714-796-7793 or