April 18, 2013

New voice for long-term care

PLATTSBURGH — Amy Gehrig is a new voice for those who live in long-term care.

The Champlain woman recently took the post of Long Term Care Ombudsman Program coordinator at the North Country Center for Independence.

“We draw attention to (residents’) issues, and we’re there to improve their nursing home,” Gehrig said in a phone interview.

“We are their voice.”

She follows Alan Bechard, who was appointed assistant vice ombudsman in Albany.


Gehrig’s main job is to coordinate the volunteers who serve as ombudsmen in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and adult homes, advocating for their rights.

The volunteers — in both Clinton and Essex counties — work to resolve complaints, monitor quality of life and help to preserve the dignity of residents of any age.

Gehrig said that during her first couple of days in her new position, she was overwhelmed by the amount of information she needed to absorb about the job.

But now, she said, she has her feet on the ground.

“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” she said.

Most recently, Gehrig was a third-grade teacher and advancement director at St. Mary’s Academy in Champlain, which closed in June 2012.

“It truly was a fabulous job; I loved going to work every day,” she said.

“But there’s always a reason for things to happen, and I look forward to making a difference at NCCI.”

The main goal of the ombudsman program, she said, is to make sure the residents are happy where they are and that they receive proper care.

In order to make that happen, more volunteers are needed, and Gehrig hopes to increase the time they spend attending to the needs of those they serve.


Mark Randall, an ombudsman assigned to Meadowbrook Healthcare and Evergreen Valley Nursing Home, both in Plattsburgh, said the transition of moving into such a facility is always difficult, so the ombudsmen make sure it takes place as easily as possible.

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