What extra services might an Adult Family Home offer in addition to those mandated by Washington State?

It sounds like you might already know what the state does mandate, and the most important of those requirements is probably the fact that a maximum of six residents are permitted in any one Adult Family Home household. And that’s a very good thing, simply because the staff in a house of only six senior residents can quickly become intimately familiar with each and every one resident. That means, perhaps obviously, when there is an emergency, a caregiver – that is, the staff member or members on duty when the emergency occurs – can take urgent medical action immediately in many cases, without having to look up the file of the person having the emergency. That can be a life-or-death situation, where knowing the resident’s actual, unique medical situation enables the caregiver to both take the right course of action and to do it without delay. That makes the six resident limit a big deal in my view, and makes an Adult Family Home stand head and shoulders above an equivalent nursing home, where no such limit exists, and the caregiver-knows-the-resident advantage doesn’t exist.

“Wake Staff” means 24x7 support for every resident

Wake Staff, if you haven’t guessed the meaning already, is those caregiver staff who stay overnight at the Adult Family Home. You might have not thought of it as even an issue – personally, I had years ago assumed an Adult Family Home would be staffed round the clock – but many Adult Family Homes do not actually have such wake staff. In those cases, when there is an emergency at 3AM, the residents are, for a while at least, on their own.

A good Adult Family Home will have comprehensive facilities to support emergency call-outs. Such things include emergency call buttons, pressure mats (to indicate someone has gotten out of bed), extra support rails in a shower and bath unit area, as well as other ways to at least get someone’s attention, if not to call an ambulance directly.

But even when a senior has such call-out opportunities, an ambulance and its staff cannot be there instantly. Just to get into an ambulance and get on the road takes moments at least. And in those precious moments, a medical emergency may go from being urgent to being critical, depending on what has occurred. In addition, the medical staff in that ambulance in almost 100% certainty, have no personal knowledge of the person they are going to help. And so, they arrive at the Adult Family Home at 3:15AM, have to make their way into the home, find the person who is in need, and only then start to learn about the person’s unique medical needs, history and issues. In some cases, if in the case of unconsciousness, they may have to do at least some guesswork and take the most likely best action, because doing nothing might be fatal.

For all of those reasons, I consider such Wake Staff to be absolutely critical. Your loved one needs to have immediate support of a capable and experienced adult for that can-happen-at-3AM emergency. Even knowing someone is close by reduces every senior’s anxiety which, in turn, will add to their health and well being.

Fresh food versus canned, processed or convenient food

Food is a difficult thing to regulate. The federal government, with all its power, has difficult managing the behavior of large, publicly-traded companies’ nefarious activities, even with all the mandated transparencies. The state of Washington has a tough time inspecting the countless Adult Family Homes there are in the state, so in this regard, a little homework is best done by the would-be resident or candidate looking for a place for their loved one.

Take a tour, and ask about how food is bought, prepared, stored, cooked and served. Even in my fifties, I have grown very aware of how different I feel when I just throw something from cans onto the stove, versus taking a little more time to prepare fresh vegetables and a balanced meal. I can only assume – and my mother has told me this is true, so it must be – the older we get, the more careful we have to be in what we eat.

A good Adult Family Home will shop more often for food, will have a balance of nutrition within the meals they provide, and limit their use of canned, or pre-frozen foods. By pre-frozen, I mean food that is bought frozen, because it is harder to determine how old the food is. “When you buy frozen food”, my mother often told me “you don’t know for how long the food was dead or alive”. Food that is prepared and frozen for later can be perfectly fine, of course, and is a good way to repeat winning combinations of meals that are known to be favored by current residents.

It’s hard to cook 100% organic ingredients, but fresh is relatively easy to manage, and a good Adult Family Home should have a preponderance of fresh food.

State inspectors look very critically for cleanliness and best practices inside the kitchen in general, but it’s hard for them to measure how food is prepared. So, on your tour of any Adult Family Home you are considering, be sure to get a tour of the kitchen. And at meal time, if that’s possible, because you’ll get a first hand view of how food is prepared, stored and served.

An Adult Family Home with a way to get on the waiting list

Most Adult Family Homes have no vacancies for most of the time. That is, if you were to call one right this very moment, you’ll probably learn that is has its full complement of six residents, and you could “try again later”. It’s probably more so the case in the event of the better Adult Family Homes. I would think they are likely full for more of the time, and it’s less likely you will find a vacancy.

When you visit an Adult Family Home’s website, or see them in person, and you want first consideration for any future vacancy, put your name down to be called in that event.

Most Adult Family Homes will allow you to stay on their waiting list – and at the top of that list if you’re on it long enough – even tough you pass up on taking a spot when they have called one or more times. In other words, your loved one might not be quite ready to make the move from your home to the new place to live, but when the time comes, you don’t want then to go scrambling for the right Adult Family Home. Being on the list gives you the chance to have already examined the place to live, and know exactly what’s on offer when one calls you with an offer of a vacancy. You can pass when the phone call comes, but can remain at the head of the line so that when they call does come, you have first call on the Adult Family Home of your choice.

More next week!