The Pennyrile region's 23 nursing care facilities and seven personal care homes are in need of some friendly faces to visit with the residents of those facilities.

Cindy Tabor, long-term care ombudsman for the Pennyrile Area Development District, said she currently has no volunteers at facilities in three counties and would like to have additional volunteers at each of the 30 facilities in the region.

"We're always looking for volunteers to visit with residents," said Tabor, who noted that having someone who will spend time with the facilities' residents helps to break up the day for those residents. "Most of the residents say, 'Come back.'"

Tabor said she currently has 12 volunteers on the books who visit with residents for one hour a week at the region's nursing care facilities and personal care homes, but she said that doesn't mean those volunteers are all real active.

There are no volunteers right now in Todd, Livingston or Lyon counties.

Visitors spend time with the residents and should be able to listen and start a conversation with the men and women, Tabor said. To get them started, she offers some helpful hints for beginning a conversation with the residents.

Volunteers should be personable, and they must be adults, older than 18 years old.

Each must take part in two hours of training, learning how to dress when they visit with residents and how to respect the residents' rights during visits -- always knocking on the resident's door and asking for permission to enter, for example.

Tabor said she would love to have five volunteers, known as friendly visitors, at each of the 30 facilities located in the nine counties served by the program.

The weekly visitors help fill a void created by family members who don't live close enough to visit, and they are a plus for residents who have no family at all.

Tabor accompanies her visitors during their first time at the nursing homes.

"It's just letting the residents know that they matter," said Tabor, who noted that it makes a difference when the visitor is someone other than a staff member.

She said she'd like to have as many of the volunteers as she can get; typically, she may get two new volunteers and lose two others at the same time because those who have been serving for a while decide not to be volunteers any longer.

Tabor said visitors undergo a background check when they start the program, and she works together with them to choose a facility where they can volunteer.

"They're not made to go somewhere they don't want to go," she explained.

She said friendly visitors may also take their volunteerism a step further and become certified ombudsmen, helping work cases for residents who may be dealing with various issues, whether it's not having enough to eat, finding roaches in their rooms or discovering they're about to be discharged from the facility.

Tabor said certified ombudsmen must complete 24 hours of training.

She noted that there are five nursing facilities and two personal care homes in Christian County, a nursing facility in Todd County and one nursing facility and one personal care home in Trigg County.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer or certified ombudsman for one of the facilities, call Tabor at 270-886-9484.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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