To the editor: Recent stories in The Berkshire Eagle, on the nightly news and on social media highlight significant nursing home staffing challenges and concerns regarding resident care. ("Inside the staffing crisis at Berkshire nursing homes," Eagle, Jan. 1.)

Staffing challenges are not new to the long-term care industry. Unfortunately, the duration of the pandemic and the widespread staffing struggles all organizations are currently facing make this situation even worse. For those of us who have family, friends and neighbors residing in a nursing home, concerns regarding the safety of our loved ones are a constant reality.

As is true with all health care facilities, social service agencies and businesses in Berkshire County and beyond, nursing homes are working hard to respond to daily COVID-related challenges. This includes retaining and recruiting staff and, most importantly, keeping residents safe and well care for during this unprecedented time. However, despite these efforts, nursing home residents may encounter issues or concerns that they or their families are unable to resolve on their own.

Elder Services' long-term care ombudsman program’s volunteers advocate for the residents of Berkshire County’s 13 nursing homes and are ready and willing to help. The program’s team of state-certified volunteers provide in-person and virtual visits with the residents of their assigned facilities. These visits entail identifying resident issues and concerns, working with the facility’s administration on a resolution and empowering residents to advocate on their own behalf.

The long term care ombudsman program remains committed to assisting nursing home residents. Please call 413-236-1726 to speak with our ombudsman program manager regarding any concerns or questions you may have regarding your care or the care of a loved one.

Christopher McLaughlin, Pittsfield

The writer is the executive director of Elder Services of Berkshire County Inc.