Congressional Briefing Scholarship Gives Long-Term Care Professionals Special Opportunity to Advocate for Residents and Staff
March 7, 2023
Written by: Guest columnist Dr. Cameron Zargar, Experience Care
The Nebraska Health Care Foundation Congressional Briefing Scholarship offers a unique opportunity for individuals in the long-term care industry to advocate for the residents and staff they serve by attending the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C. Amber Lihs, a life enrichment professional, is a prime example of the value and impact of this experience. She recently appeared on the LTC Heroes podcast to recount her journey:
Beginning with the time she spent with her grandmother residing in a long-term care facility, Lihs has long been drawn to the calling of serving the elderly. “That experience made me realize that that's just where my heart is, and where I need to be,” she told Experience Care’s Peter Murphy Lewis. However, she didn't know how or where to begin. It was through her role in life enrichment that she found her passion for advocating for residents in long-term care facilities. “I felt so passionate about what my residents have been going through in the past couple of years that I just wanted to be there to advocate for them,” Lihs said.
Though she had no previous experience in politics, Lihs found it easy to communicate the issues that matter to her in the nation’s capital thanks to the support of Nebraska Health Care Foundation and Nebraska Health Care Association. “The NHCA really did a good job of highlighting specific topics that we could talk about, to the point where, when we met with the Congressman, they had files and folders all prepared with certain bills that would be of interest to them.” She was then easily able to drive home the importance of real change to those government officials by using her real-life experiences as examples.
One of the most valuable aspects of the scholarship for Lihs was the opportunity to speak with people in D.C. from a "nitty gritty perspective of experience." She found that her firsthand knowledge of the challenges and difficulties faced by residents and staff was well received. As a result, Lihs hopes to go back each year to continue sharing their stories and giving caregivers hope for a brighter future. “I told my team members who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed that there’s this whole crew of people advocating on your behalf,” she said.
Lihs strongly encourages other Nebraskans in the long-term care industry to apply for the Nebraska Health Care Foundation scholarship and seek out opportunities for advocacy through building stronger networks. “This gave me a beautiful opportunity to not only advocate to Congressman but connect with people at the NHCA, who I feel I have enough of a relationship with now that I could reach out to them and ask for suggestions for difficult challenges or requests to advocate on our behalf,” she said. She hopes to continue to work side-by-side with like-minded professionals to achieve a shared goal: a higher quality of life for America’s seniors.
Nebraska Health Care Association is the parent to Nebraska Nursing Facility Association (NNFA) and Nebraska Assisted Living Association (NALA), as well as Nebraska Health Care Learning Center and Nebraska Health Care Foundation. NNFA and NALA collectively represent approximately 416 nonprofit and proprietary skilled nursing facilities and assisted living communities in Nebraska.