Sunday, March 23, 2008

Selecting an Adult Foster Care Home

(Originally Posted - 30 December 2007)

The Michigan Department of Human Services has advised the following:

How Do I Choose An Adult Foster Care Home Or A Home For The Aged?

There are many types of AFC and HFA homes. Before making a decision, it is strongly recommended that you visit the home, talk with the residents , consider the neighborhood and question the provider. The agencies listed below may help you in the selection process:

Local Department of Human Services, Adult Services Unit
Michigan Department of Human Services, Bureau of Children and Adult Licensing, Licensing Division

Local Community Mental Health Board

Michigan Department of Community Health
Michigan Rehabilitation Services
Citizens for Better Care
Local Office on Services for the Aging

State Office on Services for the Aging

The numbers and addresses are in your local telephone directory.

When selecting an AFC or a HFA home, it is important that you clearly understand the services to be provided and the cost of those services.

If you are in the Grand Traverse / Benzie / Leelanau regions of northern Michigan, you may find help with placement through The Alliance. The Alliance was featured in a recent article in the Traverse City Record-Eagle:

Published: November 04, 2007 09:46 am Solutions for Seniors

Choosing the right living situation takes research and time

Special to the Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY — For a time after her stroke, it looked as if life might go back to normal for Annabelle Boersma.Always independent and active, the elderly woman spent two months in an assisted living facility for rehabilitation, then came back home to live alone — with her children checking in on her.But after another hospitalization and another return home, Boersma realized that things had to change.“She said she knew when she walked in the house she could never be home alone again,” said Judy Galligan, Boersma’s daughter. “She was frightened.”Historically, older adults have lived on their own, moved in with their children or headed to a nursing home.Today’s senior citizens, however, face an expanding array of housing choices. New programs, services and technology are helping people stay in their homes longer, while a growing number of nursing homes and retirement communities offer in-home services ranging from housekeeping to telemedicine. Meanwhile, the number of assisted-living facilities and continuing-care retirement communities across the nation has grown steadily over the past decade.With all these choices and services, the search for just the right fit can be time-consuming, frustrating, confusing — and overwhelming.But for residents of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Kalkaska, Antrim and Wexford counties, The Alliance can help.“Our mission is to preserve the dignity and independence of the people our clients cherish most, the family,” explained the program’s founder Connie Hintsala. “We help by providing updated information on each home or facility in the area. We’ll come to the family’s home, discuss their needs and offer suggestions, based on their financial situation.”

The service is free to the families, with funding coming from the homes and facilities that Hintsala enrolls in the program.

“We do the footwork on the homes, gather information and photographs and place them into a portfolio,” explained Hintsala. “We continuously update their information by working closely with each home.”

With help from The Alliance, Boersma, 87, chose Country Pleasures, a small group home on six acres run by Deb Banton and her husband, Wayne. Even then, however, it was a difficult adjustment.

“It was a very big adjustment because she gave up her car and everything; she was driving right up until her stroke,” said Galligan, who visits weekly and often takes Boersma for day and overnight outings. “It was debilitating for all of us because she had been so independent.”

Banton said initial reactions vary from resident to resident.

“Sometimes they’re very angry. They feel they’re being forced to move in,” she said. “We get a great variety, from very upset to ‘I don’t want to do this but I have to.’”

For families who are considering making such a choice for their loved one, she recommends talking it out first, then bringing the loved one for a visit.

“I find it’s better if the family is honest with them and open and at least tries to talk to them,” she said.

After placing a loved one in a new housing arrangement, families should visit often, especially at first, she said. To ease the transition, Banton makes extra time for chats with new residents and encourages other residents to share their experiences there. She also offers plenty of activities, including scenic drives around the area with a stop for $1 sundaes at McDonald’s.

After about two weeks, “it’s like, ‘OK, this isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,’” she said.

Finding the right fit was crucial for Galligan. So was letting her mother call the shots.

“It’s not a decision that’s easy to make all at once and I can see why,” Galligan said. “This is the last stage in (her) life because there is no moving from here.”

Banton, whose home offers everything from medication set-up and other basic assistance to end-of-life care, likes to interview potential clients and sometimes rejects those she feels won’t get along in the family-like setting.

“I’ve turned down people that the first time I met them I thought, ‘This isn’t going to work,’” she said. “That’s very important in a small home because they really are like a family.”

But even if one housing situation isn’t right, there are plenty of others. In northern Michigan, the housing options for seniors include:

Retirement Centers: Apartments for independent living that often provide meals (which may or may not be included in the monthly rent), light housekeeping, social activities and transportation.

Assisted Living: Units that provide various levels of care, social programs, meals, laundry, housekeeping, transportation, medication dispensing and monitoring, assistance with daily living tasks. Hospice and respite care are sometimes available.

Adult Foster Care: Semi-private to private bedrooms with various levels of care, social programs, meals, laundry, housekeeping, transportation, medication dispensing and assistance with daily living. Respite and hospice care are sometimes available.

“Low-income senior apartments and nursing homes are also available in the region,” said Hintsala. “But low-income senior apartments often have waiting lists of two to eight months and costs are linked to income.”

Hintsala estimated that there are about 70 assisted living and adult foster care homes in the Traverse City region.

“We look for a home based on their needs,” explained Hintsala. “For example, if the parent is very social, we would suggest a home with a more social program, not reclusive. We don’t push families, but help guide them in their choices.”

While many of her clients are referred to The Alliance by doctors, lawyers or social workers, no referral is required. More than 200 families have taken advantage of Hintsala’s program, which also helps provide advice on and interpret insurance and other means of paying for housing.

For more information on The Alliance, call (231) 263-4040.

Record-Eagle staff writer Marta Hepler Drahos contributed to this story.

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