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Counties Need Volunteers To Review Senior Care Centers

Elderly senior citizen hand on cane
Meena Kadri, Flickr, Creative Commons

Regulators who oversee quality at the state's long-term care facilities depend on trained volunteers to visit assisted-living and nursing homes and report back about conditions. But there are ongoing vacancies on the citizen advisory committees in the Triangle.

Dennis Streets is the director of the state health department division on Aging and Adult services. He said the job is more important than ever.

“Over 50 of our counties, over half of our counties, had more persons aged 60 and older than 17 and younger. By 2025, that's projected to be 89 of our counties,” said Streets. “So, the demographics are definitely changing. We're becoming a much grayer state, if you will.”

Director Joan Pellettier of the Triangle-J Area Agency on Aging said many residents don't have families to visit or look out for them. She said these citizens advisory committees are the eyes, ears and noses for the agency.

“It's absolutely imperative,” Pelletier said of the volunteer group. “Not only is it important because they work collaboratively with our staff, it's important for volunteers on even a more broad scale, to go into these facilities and help the facility understand that these residents have community members who are concerned about them.”

Wake, Durham, and Orange Counties have vacancies in their citizens advisory committees.

Program organizers say it's time consuming for volunteers, who are asked to serve up to 24 hours per quarter. It can also be emotionally taxing.

Still, Pellettier said when fewer people evaluate these facilities and report back, the treatment of residents can suffer.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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