My name is Charles Polleschultz, III. I was born in St. Louis in 1946. One of three children, I was the oldest with two sisters. My father worked at McDonald Douglas as an Aeronautical Design Engineer and was deferred from military service during World War II because he worked in a defense plant building airplanes.
I grew up in the St. Louis area. After finishing high school, I went to Missouri Valley College. While there I met my wife, Harriet. We got married in March of 1969.
I started my master’s degree at Central Missouri State University,and I received a draft notice close to the end of the semester. Uncle Sam decided they’d let me have enough time to finish the semester.
I entered the Army and went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. It was a very good experience. One thing I still remember was from my drill instructor, Bill Webber. He told all of us, “You’re in the best shape you’ll ever be in, so take advantage of it now. From here on, it’s downhill.” He was right.
From there I went to Fort Sill, for advanced training in artillery. At that time I thought “Egads, I’m going in to the artillery as a forward observer, which means you’re ahead of the cannons, ahead of the line, and your life expectancy in Vietnam might be really short!” But for some reason when they read the deployment roster at the end of the eight weeks of training, I was told I was going to Germany. I thanked my lucky stars and God for that. I was flown to Germany in what felt like a cattle car with more seats than a commercial aircraft. Harriet joined me after a couple of months, and we rented an apartment off base. Because I was stationed on a NATO base both American and German military personnel were there. It provided the opportunity for us to make lifelong German and American friends.
My job in the military was to secure Nike Hercules missiles, so I spent most of my time on guard duty and maintaining the missiles. My tour of duty in Germany lasted two and a half years.
Harriet is a certified elementary school teacher and was fortunate enough to be hired by the Department of Defense to teach on the base in Hanau, Germany at the American dependent school.I extended my tour of duty six months to coincide with the end of her school year. Extending the time gave us some additional time to continue our travel all around Europe. I’m fairly mechanical, so I bought a 1959 Opel, which needed brake work. It was interesting because the dialect for ordering parts was so different. I was dealing with people who didn’t always speak English. But I finally got it done. When my tour of duty ended, I received an honorable discharge and returned home.
I rotated out of the service in 1971 and went back to finish my master’s degree in Mathematics at Central Missouri State University. Although I took many computer type courses, a degree in Computer Science was not offered at that time
At the end of my schooling, I accepted a job at McDonald Douglas in their IT (Information Technology) Department as a programmer. I did this for sixteen years and worked my way through the ranks. My career also included nine years at EDS (Electronic Data Systems) and twelve years at ATT (American Telephone & Telegraph). In 2012 I retired.
IT’S EASY TO CARE
As my mother was growing older (my father had passed away in 1987), she was having difficulty with Alzheimer’s. Because I was the oldest son, and my sisters were not available; I began handling her financial affairs and taking care of her. She wasn’t paying her bills, and medications weren’t being taken. She volunteered to move to assisted living where she could get more help.
When I got closer to retirement, I convinced her to move to Parklane Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Wentzville, MO. Because it was near our home, I could stop by daily to see her.Mom passed away in 2006.
My volunteering started at Parklane Nursing Home because of a blind lady named, Nancy, from our church. She was passionate about having church services at nursing homes. My wife was already playing the piano for the service, so I volunteered to assist by helping people to come from their rooms to the place where the service was held. I found out that one of the men, Karl, never had visitors. I took it upon myself to visit him each time I was there. Over time Karl has become a special friend of mine. He has been in residential care for many years because of a car accident that left him with severe injuries. Evidently, he was a “wild child” back in the 60’s, high on drugs and alcohol and as a result of the accident has memory problems, is confined to a wheel chair, and struggles to say even a few words. He does love Rock & Roll music, and so do I. Sometimes he can remember songs and musician’s names. He likes Cherry Coke which I’m pleased to supply for him. Usually, he remembers that I bring a Cherry Coke, but can’t remember my name! I also work at a thrift store in Wentzville, so occasionally I pick up clothing for him. One day the administrator of Parklane said, “Chuck, you’re in here seeing Karl all of the time. Why don’t you look in to volunteering for VOYCE?”I did look into it, but I did nothing about it for several months.
And then one day, Leola, (from our church services) passed away. She was a very kind lady who loved Pepsi, so I would always take one to her. My wife and I went to her funeral service at Baue Funeral Home. I took a Pepsi and handed it to her daughter, and told her Leola really loved them. Her daughter did something I really didn’t expect. She took it and placed it in Leola’s casket. That really tore me up.It was at that point I made the decision to become an Ombudsman!
The VOYCE team did an excellent job preparing me to be an Ombudsman. They taught me what was required, and they gave me help when I had questions. The sad part of the job is some of the people I’ve gotten attached to have passed away. One was an 80-year-old man who didn’t have any one to visit him, and another one was a lady with the sweetest smile. Both were cremated and their families never had a memorial service. They didn’t do anything. One resident I worked with passed away and the family never even picked up the belongings. Very sad.
WHAT DOES AN OMBUDSMAN DO?
The Ombudsman has a card that tells the patient’s rights. We are there to listen to residents. One person might say the food is subpar. Another person may want water on the table during dinner. A lot of complaints come in about the quality of food and lack of staff on the weekends.Over the two and a half years I’ve seen agitated people, lonely people, frustrated people, forgetful people, but I’ve also seen kindness, sweetness, and happiness. Let’s face it, they probably once had a house and a car, and could easily go out when they wanted. Now they’re in a care facility and can hardly get out at all. They’re pretty much captive here, most of them in wheel-chairs. I have observed that it takes the residents a few weeks, maybe even months to adjust to life in a care center. In time most do make friends and develop a social network.
An Ombudsman is required to make a report of the visits made. I carry a clipboard to make notes as I’m visiting, so putting my report on the computer when I get home is fairly easy and simple.
WHAT MOTIVATES ME?
Seeing the smiles on the resident’s faces when I walk in and am recognized as a friend is all the motivation I need. When I walk in and see all the smiles and sometimes waves and they ask how I’m doing, I talk to them and they’re smiling even when I don’t bring a PepsiJ. It’s just a little brief glimpse of joy.I like to go in at mealtime or from room to room to see how they’re doing. I ask, “Is there something I can do for you today?” I enjoy building relationships with people. It’s sad to see residents leaving; by death, or by moving to another place. I feel I’ve brought a bit of joy to them. I had one lady whose charger for her wheelchair wouldn’t work. I looked online for a charger but it was more than she could afford. It turned out that she only needed to have the wires on her charger soldered together. I fixed it,and she had a smile on her face from ear to ear. I also try to build good relationships with the staff.
VOYCE is great with support for their volunteers. They know all the legal answers and provide advice whenever needed. VOYCE also has an important shadowing program. After you complete the regular training program, they send you out to shadow an experienced Ombudsman. I found this to be invaluable, and now I’m happy to mentor other new volunteers. VOYCE also will direct you to a facility that works best for your location or situation.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do this type of work. It just takes someone willing to care for and support others in need. It’s very rewarding volunteer work!
WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT VOLUNTEERING AS AN OMBUDSMAN?
visit us at
Formerly the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program
680 Craig Road, Suite 245
St. Louis, MO. 63141