By LANCE ARMSTRONG Valley Community Newspapers writer email@example.com
Pocket residents Joan Parks and Clifton Wilson have two very strong bonds with one another: their unwavering dedication to senior advocacy and their love for the community where they live.
At times referred to by their associates as the “dynamic duo,” Parks and Wilson spend many hours each week assisting seniors through the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program of Ombudsman Services of Northern California.
Despite their consistently busy schedules, Parks and Wilson sat down with The Pocket News last week to discuss various details about themselves, including their involvement with this program.
Parks, who was born in Chicago, said that after moving to Sacramento in 1993, she became drawn to the Pocket area and thus decided to find a home in this community.
“I lived in Sacramento in an apartment for one year and looked around at the different neighborhoods and I had developed friendships in the Pocket area and found it to be a good, stable neighborhood,” Parks said. “(The area) was very desirable, with the community spirit, sense of community, and I chose to live there. It has a true sense of neighborhood. I feel like it’s an isolated community from the busyness of downtown Sacramento. I attend Faith Presbyterian Church (where she is an elder) and I love doing my grocery shopping (in the Pocket) and I just feel that (the area) meets all my needs as a single person. I feel very safe and comfortable there. I have a great neighborhood with community spirit. I love it there.”
Although she began her life in Illinois, Parks has been a resident of California since her childhood. She eventually attended San Diego State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business management.
Parks, who has also lived in the states of Washington and Alaska, additionally studied in the California Paralegal Certificate Program at California State University, Bakersfield.
Wilson, who also expressed his love for the Pocket, has been a resident of the community since about 1987. His involvement in the community has included teaching catechism at St. Anthony Parish.
In speaking about earlier years in his life, Wilson said that after being born in Birmingham, Alabama, he eventually joined the Army and came to California when he was assigned to Fort Ord. And it was shortly after his time at Fort Ord that he moved to the Pocket area.
Wilson, who enjoys fitness, jazz music and traveling, has a wife named Sallie, a daughter named Maria and a son named Geoffrey. And Parks, who also enjoys traveling, with one of her favorite places being southern Italy, also has a son and a daughter, Jeff and Cheri.
The “Dynamic Duo”
After being asked to discuss the “dynamic duo” nickname given to her and Wilson, Parks said, “First off, people are usually amazed that Clift and I have worked together for as many years as we have. We both came to this program in 1992, and it’s under the umbrella of Legal Services of Northern California. It was a small, single program of (senior) advocacy in the southern county area. Since we’ve been doing this, the program has grown huge, and now we’ve got four programs going and we’re in 15 counties. We have been both very committed to bring state-of-the-art program techniques, marketing the program and the training of it and the staff design. And we both became recipients of the Malcolm Baldridge (National Quality) Award for staff design and program implementation, which is a huge honor.”
Presently, Parks is the organization’s administrator, who deals with the program’s budget and the staff, and Wilson is the program services manager, who is dedicated to managing activities in the field and handling complaints.
The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program
Parks described the purpose of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, as follows: “We do long-term care advocacy for residents who live in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. We have a telephone intake, literally 24 (hours per day and) seven (days per week) and with our staff and volunteers, we respond to all complaints from residents, family members, doctors, and emergency rooms. All the mandated reporters of elder abuse contact this office, so we’re mandated under state and federal laws to respond to all of those complaints. In addition to that, the program has what we call the Facility Visitation Plan, where the ombudsmen who are state certified through the Department of Aging go into facilities unannounced to do a walk-through to work with the residents (and) staff in trying to bring quality where there may be weak areas.”
And in summarizing her work for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, Parks said, “It’s a program that you develop a passion for, but it’s not a job. It’s never been a job for me or I wouldn’t be doing this. It’s the most rewarding opportunity and I’m just so thankful for it.”
The Greenhaven-Pocket area is home to 16 residential care facilities and two skilled nursing facilities, which Wilson described as “providing good care.”
“I can’t think of any facility (in the area) that is real problematic now,” Wilson said. “We did have a couple (problems) in the past years. We don’t have residents who are complaining a lot. We do have ombudsmen who are in there constantly, so if there were things that were wrong or not so good, then they would be detected.”
Parks said that a positive aspect about facilities in the Greenhaven-Pocket area is that residents can stay in the neighborhood and go from the lowest level of care giving to the acute skilled nursing level.
“A lot of people (in other areas) have to leave their own neighborhood for care, so this is a lot of facilities for one neighborhood,” Parks said. “As we get older, which we are doing, it looks like a good neighborhood that one can stay in and that’s very important.”
Sacramento County Regional Ombudsman Cheryl Simcox, who lives in the Land Park area, said that the Pocket-Greenhaven area also includes two and a half independent living facilities for seniors.
Simcox, said that she will soon be placing her father in one of these facilities, noted that the half independent living facility is combined in the same building with an assisted living facility, so that residents can easily transfer from one facility to the other.
Additionally, Simcox encouraged people who are in search of a facility to place their parents or loved ones in to carefully select such a facility.
“There are a lot of resources, both online and through some of the senior resource centers, about different facilities,” Simcox said. “I think it’s important to always go and look at the facility, look at the neighborhood, meet the staff and talk about what your loved ones’ issues and care levels are to be comfortable before you place them, and then to have ongoing monitoring of how well they’re doing.”
Also being offered in the Greenhaven-Pocket area are free, one-hour Medicare counseling sessions, which are held every Wednesday at noon, 1 and 2 p.m. by appointment only at the Asian Community Center at 7375 Park City Drive. To make an appointment, call (916) 376-8915.
For those interested in becoming a certified ombudsman, certification training will be held at 3950 Industrial Blvd., Ste. 350 on July 9, 11, 12, 18 and 23 from 9 to 3 p.m. Information about this training can be obtained at the Web site www.osnc.net.