Elder care advocate leads by example

Rachel Shields has worn many hats in her 90 years: She’s been the director of Asbury Day Care Center (later Frankton), foster parent and missionary. She was appointed ombudsman in 1993 by Meredith Cole, Oregon’s long term care ombudsman, and named a delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging in Washington, D.C., by Gov. John Kitzhaber. She also leads weekly Bible studies at Providence Down Manor.

And for the past three years, she’s been on the Hood River Care Center’s Family Council.

Family Council, which has nonprofit status, was formed in March 2009 by the families of some Hood River Care Center residents who felt “such an organization could enhance the quality care being given by acting as a liaison between the caregivers and the residents’ families or interested parties,” according to a June 2009 Hood River News article by Esther Smith.

On the third Monday of each month — or the second Monday in November and December due to holidays — the group meets in the Doc Eddy room at the Care Center at 5:30 p.m. They plan birthdays, holidays and fundraisers, actively seek donations and coordinate clothing exchanges as well as help residents and their families and the Care Center staff.

One goal is to make the Care Center feel like home, according to Shields.

“We forget about our elderly; many times they’re put in an institution and forgotten, and we don’t want that for the Hood River Care Center,” she said. “For many people, this is their home. It’s a privilege to help people who really need it.”

For Shields, the best part of Family Council is the people.

“I think just meeting with others and planning is a real reward. Then I try to visit the rooms, have the conversations, see where they are, what they feel, if they don’t like certain foods, if they don’t like this or that, then we can carry those things to the administration.”

Shields said that Family Council has been a very positive experience. The members are small in number but dedicated to making the Care Center a better place.

As for her many years of service, Shields is modest. “You have an ombudsman’s heart, that’s what happens,” she said. “I’m 90 years old now. It was children years ago, but as I grow older I’ve seen the needs of the elderly.

“I’ve had a very good life as far as that’s concerned. I really can’t complain.”

n

Family Council mission:

n To improve quality of care and ensure dignity and quality of life for Hood River Care Center residents;

n To provide an official organization through which family members of residents and interested parties may voice interests and concerns;

n Respect rights and privacy of Hood River Care Center residents;

n Support quality care givers.

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