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Cheryl J. Wilson, M.S.



Long-term Care Expert

Dementia Specialist

Master Care Partner with The Electronic Caregiver

About Cheryl

Cheryl's Story

I have been involved in long-term care since I was in college, first, as a Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA), then as a Certified Medical Technician (CMT). I loved working in the long-term care facilities; however, the problem I constantly faced was with fellow staff members who would constantly call in sick and leave the dedicated staff members to do twice the work. After several years, I decided I had had enough; I vowed to come back and help the residents when I could make a difference.

After college, I went to work in a home health agency. While I was there, I worked in medical records where I learned to transcribe medical records as well as how to audit the client’s charts. During this time, I learned about the common medical problems seniors experienced as well as what medications were most commonly prescribed to seniors.

Ultimately, I was approached by an acquaintance who asked me if I would be interested in changing jobs. At the time I was not looking to switch jobs. I told this individual that I was happy working at the home health company and had no thoughts of switching jobs anytime soon. She told me that she knew of a position that would be opening and she felt I would be perfect for that position. At that point, she had captured my curiosity, so I told her to tell me about the position. That is when she told me about the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. As she told me about the Ombudsman Program, I immediately knew that this was how I could fulfill the vow that I made to myself; I was ready to return and make a difference in the lives of residents in long-term care communities.

The Ombudsman Program is a federally mandated program that advocates for residents in long-term care facilities. The more I learned about this program the more I knew this is what I had been looking for: a place where I could make a difference. In May 1996, I started with St. Louis Long Term Care Ombudsman Program as Coordinator of Volunteers. As the Coordinator of Volunteers, I was responsible for hiring, training, and supervising all the Ombudsman Volunteers. I became the director of a program that provided victim services to residents abused in long-term care communities. The name of this program was SERVE (Serving Elderly long-term care Residents who are V ictims of crimE ). To be successful in these positions I had to learn all the State and Federal Laws that governed long-term care communities. To do this I read every State and Federal law and regulation once a week. As I did this, I began to learn and understand these laws and regulations. As my position with the Ombudsman changed over time, I ultimately became the Lead Advocate and the Director of the Ombudsman Services.

 While working in the Ombudsman program, I made the decision to get my master’s degree in Gerontology. While working on my master’s degree I focused on long-term care and caring for individuals Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. At this time dementia care was just starting to take off in long-term care communities. I had the opportunity to do my practicum study with the St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association where I came into direct contact with families struggling with caring for loved one’s with dementia. During my time with the Alzheimer’s Association, I saw a need for individuals who specialized in advocating for residents with dementia.

While the Ombudsman always seeks to resolve complaints to the satisfaction of the resident, I quickly learned that sometimes what the resident sees as a resolution to their problem is not the same resolution that is being sought by the staff, families or even sometimes the Ombudsman. I had to learn to listen to what the resident wanted and not push my thoughts or opinions on them; I had to help them convey their concerns to the staff or sometimes family members.

 Over time, I noticed that most of the time when a resident had a complaint, it was due to a basic resident right not being honored. I decided to focus on learning everything I could about Resident Rights. It is important to note that when a resident has a complaint you cannot assume the staff have done something wrong. The first thing I always do is interview the resident, find out what the concern is, then I look for any regulations that are applicable. Once that is done, I interview staff to see what their perspective is, and what they have done to address the concern. The staff would often ask why I focused all my decisions on what the resident wanted, and I would tell them that at the end of each day, staff members get to go home, I got to go home, but for the residents - this is their home. In your own home, you should be able to live the way you choose.

Over the years I have seen many things, but one thing I know needs to happen is that family members need to have access to the regulations and understand resident rights before problems arise.                

The greatest tool I can pass on to you, the family of a resident, is the knowledge that a family who knows and understands resident rights has a greater advantage when it comes to getting good care for their loved one. Often, I would talk with families who were told things that simply were not true. Once a family member knows and understands a resident’s rights, they do not need an advocate speaking for them, they can handle the situation on their own. It is also important for families to realize that they are not alone. There are all kinds of community support groups that are willing to help families through the difficult times.

Families can be great advocates for their loved ones - they just need to know what the regulations are. This book is going to give you the Federal Regulations in a simple to understand format so any family member can become an advocate for their loved one. By doing this you can ensure quality care for your loved one. Any community that receives federal money (Medicare/Medicaid) must follow both the state and federal laws as they pertain to resident rights. Assisted Living Communities and Residential Care Communities do not have to follow Federal Regulations and Laws because they do not receive Federal funds. Each individual state has its own laws and regulations which govern long-term care, and which can be invaluable to know when you have a loved one in an Assisted Living or Residential Care Community.

 It is important to note that when rights are not being honored it can be due to many things. Sometimes it is because the staff are not aware of what a resident’s rights are; other times it can be a result of poor training; and yes, sometimes is simply because a staff person does not care.

 The reason for writing the book is to empower all residents, families, students, and professionals. Knowledge is power. When you know and understand resident’s rights, you can become a powerful advocate for them and improve their quality of life.

The Secret to honoring a resident’s rights is to give each individual as much control of their daily life as they can manage!”

I am The Resident

I am 30, I am 60, I am 80, I am over 100 years old.

I am the resident.

I’m black, I’m white, I am rich, I am poor.

I am the resident.

I know my rights; I have no rights.

I am the resident.

I understand what is being said to me, I am confused.

I am the resident.

I can take care of myself; I am totally dependent on others.

I am the resident.

I am happy, I am lonely, sad, angry, tired, and scared.

I am the resident.

I have lots of visitors, I have no visitors.

I am the resident.

I am wise, and I have lots of knowledge to share with you.

I am the resident.

I am ready to die; I am afraid of dying.

I am the resident.

When you care for me remember I am all these things, but most of all

remember that one day not so long ago I was not a resident, I was just

like you. As you come to care for me know that at any time something

could happen and you may become a resident. So, care for me with

the same dignity and respect you would like, because who knows

maybe one day, I’ll recover and I will be caring for you!


Cheryl J. Wilson, M.S.

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