LEXINGTON, Ky.—Susan McCray of Berea has received the Bernie Vonderheide Ombudsman Award for Outstanding Service from the Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency of the Bluegrass (NHOA).

“Susan has been an advocate for thousands of residents in the 20 years she has been with NHOA,” Bluegrass District Ombudsman Denise Wells said.  “She embodies the Ombudsman ideal of supporting a resident’s right to choose, even when the resident chooses something a facility is reluctant to support. Susan is particularly adept at digging for information related to complaints and addressing systemic issues head-on.”

McCray, who serves long-term care residents in Madison County, cited Vonderheide, a former board member, and former NHOA President Kathy Gannoe as mentors who influenced her decision to become an Ombudsman. Vonderheide was UK’s director of public relations for 23 years.

“I thought it would be boring, but I wanted to give back to the organization that had helped me when I was health surrogate and power of attorney for my father,” McCray explained. “Twenty years later, I’ve yet to be bored. I love residents! I’m also passionate about sharing what I’ve learned with new Ombudsmen and the future of NHOA.”

In addition to visiting residents and investigating and resolving complaints and problems, McCray also coaches new Ombudsmen in the finer points of residents’ rights and detecting and preventing abuse. She has investigated more than 1,200 complaints since 2007.

“Without her drive and leadership, outcomes would have been far less favorable for residents,” Wells continued. “No one is more dedicated to protecting nursing home residents and their special legal rights.”

A non-profit organization based in Lexington, NHOA improves the quality of life for residents of nursing homes, personal care homes, and family care homes in Madison County and 16 other counties in Central Kentucky. NHOA is the only organization doing this work. There’s never a charge to residents and their families. Visit, call 859-277-9215, or email for information.

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