Monday, September 24, 2012

Eldercare 101: A Hands-on Primer on Washington Adult Family Homes

Question: What eldercare option is growing by leaps and bounds in Washington State?  
Answer:  Adult family homes.

King County alone has more than 1065 homes.  No wonder they're springing up everywhere.  Adult family homes cost one third to one half of a nursing home.  They provide a more homelike setting. All in all, adult family homes are worth considering if your aging parent needs considerable care.

These homes usually have six residents cared for around the clock by trained caregivers. But is the right one hard to find?  One that will fit your parent's needs?

Last week I began checking them out in Bothell, my hometown.  I wanted to experience the "hunt," and offer a few tips to you and others who might be looking for your aging parent.  Here are some things I discovered.

1.  Washington State's DSHS website has a page devoted to finding adult family homes. Other states have similar listings.  I did an advanced search for the three Bothell zip codes.  My printed list included 84 homes.  In my zip code alone there were 24 homes.  Quite a few, all within a mile or two of my house.

2.  The DSHS website lists key items for each home including
  • Enforcement letters.  These are letters the State issues the home for violations of statutes.  They can be for anything for failing to pay the annual required fees to not reporting an emergency in a timely manner. 
  • Medicaid acceptance.  This is more than a little tricky.  Most homes say they will accept Medicaid but require between 18 months and 3 years of private pay before a resident can convert to state assistance.
  • Specialties.  Most adult family homes specialize in caring for residents with dementia and/or mental health issues.  A few also accept developmentally disabled residents.
3.  In my ongoing visits, I've found.
  • Diversity.  Two homes only take Russian-speaking residents.  One home I visited specializes in older developmentally disabled males.  Other homes desire females only who are frail. Most homes cannot accept exit-seekers--residents who continually try to leave.  Yet other homes with locking devices feel comfortable with these types of residents.  Still others take on pretty much any kind of a challenge, from post-strokes to recovering hip fractures to dementia in its many stages.
  • Somewhat uniform pricing.  Older homes may have a smaller price tag than newer ones, but not by much.  Generally adult family homes start at $3500-$4000, with higher fees for residents with greater needs.
  • Visiting is important but wearing.  Family members may want to trust a professional, such as a senior housing specialist or a geriatric care manager, to help them with the hunt. 
Have you looked for an adult family home for your aging parent?  If so, what has helped in your search?

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