“There ought to be a law!” Well, there is. The Elder and Vulnerable Adult Referral Agency Act, RCW 18.330, outlines the regulation for Senior Housing Referral Professionals in Washington State.
Why is this important? Early thoughts on aging and care date back to 44 BC when Cicero wrote a text about aging, “On Old Age.” Throughout the ages, many cultures revered their elders, it was an honor to care for seniors at home and many people are still able to do this for family members. Twenty-nine million Americans, or 9% of the population, care for someone over the age of 74. However, this is not possible for everyone and many seniors would prefer to maintain their independence rather than moving in with family.
So where do seniors get assistance and care? For many years, the only option was what we used to call nursing homes. These skilled nursing facilities were very unpopular and were care of last resort. Today assisted living is the most favored and fastest growing long-term care option for seniors in the United States. The population of adults older than 85 will double by 2036 and triple by 2049 with 7 out of 10 people requiring assisted living care in their lifetime. This means the U.S. will need nearly 1 million new senior living units by 2040. This is big business and here in Washington we have great options in the forms of Adult Family Homes, Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities.
So back to the importance of the law. In 2012, the Washington State Legislature determined that locating acceptable housing and appropriate care for vulnerable adults was an important aspect of providing the right type of care for senior citizens. It said that locating appropriate and quality housing options may require assistance from elder and vulnerable adult referral agencies and that these should be required to meet certain minimum requirements and standards of conduct as these are in the interest of public health, safety and welfare. Thus, the law, and we were the first state in the country to have one, and until only three years ago, were the only one with a law in any state.
There are very specific items included in the law which is designed to protect seniors under the Consumer Protection Act. Of greatest importance are:
- Intake Form – we gather information from the client using a minimum of 13 questions on wants and needs to help us make the best possible referral
- Community Profile – we also gather information from each community to fully understand what they offer and the services they provide
- Credential, Inspections and Enforcement Status – in addition to getting information from the communities, we also are required to search the DSHS and DOH websites to look at state inspection notes and any enforcement actions again the community
- Medicare or Medicaid – understanding the financial picture of a client is key to making a good referral and referral fees can not be collected from a community when the client is a beneficiary of Federal or State care programs
So, if you are working with a senior, or the family of one, and there are concerns with utilizing a Senior Housing Referral Professional, please share our law and give them the confidence to take the search off their shoulders. How can I help you with that?
— By Adrienne Miller
Chief Care Officer, Forever Care Services, LLC
Thanks for the good information, Adrienne! Personally, I need to highlight the highly individualized way you engage with those you serve.
My biggest concern watching all of the families that I work with or know are reaching out to find answers is that the top options in google are focused on volume and market dominance than being about service. Yet when you haven’t had experience with services for our aging families, friends and neighbors it’s difficult to the vet for high-touch service or even know what questions to ask. There are a number of agencies where their housing specialists sit behind a computer and don’t go visit these properties before recommending them to a family, sometimes they don’t even meet the family in person.
So, the way that YOU work is so individualized and so hands-on is a real gift and an important distinction!
Thank you, Annie, for your kind words. I know in your work with families affected by dementia, https://www.jacobsendcc.com/, you see how important it is to find the right community for care and support. Your work makes it so much better for families going through these transitions.
The real crisis is going to be all the people who haven’t made any sort of financial preparations for needing assisted living in their final years. It costs a small fortune; about $6000/mo. now for a reasonably good place. For example, millions of people have chosen to rely on Social Security for their only income in old age. They hang on by a thread being greeters at Walmart or clerks in stores until they can’t work anymore. At that point these people will have to rely mostly on children , if they have them, charity and Medicaid. On top of all this the Social Security program is threatened politically right now (Not ten years down the roa;d but right now) by radicals in Congress. I’m 77 and am on my fourth individual (including my first wife) helping them with assisted living issues. It is a major hassle, even if you have planned well for it. Without planning it will be a disaster.
Thank you for your comments
Clinton, thank you for your comments. Our country truly is in crisis when it comes to having the resources needed for senior care.
Many adults with aging parents will be directly involved at some point in helping select suitable housing based on specific personal needs. One size does not fit all. This process can be very daunting and stressful for a variety of reasons. Thank you for providing this information and service. It can be very helpful to those facing this process knowing there is help available.
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