Sharing your home with those in need

Posted: Friday, January 13, 2006

Senior News By Marianne Mills

Do you know someone who cares about senior citizens and who owns a home with one or more empty bedrooms? Our community needs folks to open their homes as assisted living homes. An assisted living home is a residence for people who need help with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming and eating.

Consider the situation of Susan, a 76-year old woman who broke her wrist after tripping and falling at home. For a period of six weeks, she could use only one hand and was unable to safely do many of the daily tasks she normally could do, such as using the toilet, bathing, washing her hair, dressing and cooking. She wanted to stay in Juneau but had no family in town to help care for her during her recovery period. Professional in-home workers were not available around the clock to help Susan in her own home. Susan needed an assisted living home to stay in while her wrist healed.

In some cases, senior citizens benefit from assisted living homes for longer periods of time, often while they wait for their name to rise to the top of the Pioneers' Home waiting list. Folks who stay in an assisted living home do not require medical care by staff in the home; an assisted living home is not a medical facility or a nursing home.

An assisted living home provides a homelike environment for elderly persons who need assistance with the activities of daily living. The environment should encourage the resident's independence and a private assisted living home may serve from one to several residents depending on the size and number of bedrooms. Each resident will have an assisted living plan that identifies the services that will be used to meet the resident's needs. The resident should have the opportunity to participate to the fullest extent possible in the design and implementation of the plan and in any decisions involving the resident's care.

The Department of Health and Social Services, through the Division of Public Health Assisted Living Licensing Unit, is the agency responsible for licensing assisted living homes in the state of Alaska. As indicated on its Website, the Assisted Living Licensing Program helps Alaskans to stay independent longer. "The purpose of assisted living homes is to help folks age in place in their community," explains Jerri Van Sandt, Assisted Living Licensing Unit manager.

"We try to be flexible to help people become assisted living providers." Alaska's Assisted Living Office provides technical assistance and training to assisted living care providers and provides them an orientation on state regulations, licensing and fees. The office also monitors homes to ensure they are clean, safe, and following state guidelines. Persons who run assisted living homes need to have clean background checks and adequate experience taking care of others.

There is a real shortage of assisted living homes for Juneau's elderly. Oftentimes, when preparing to discharge a patient from the hospital, the hospital social workers are hard-pressed to find a safe place the patient can go to. Persons interested in opening their homes as assisted living homes are encouraged to call the Assisted Living Licensing Unit at (907) 269-3640 and request a questionnaire packet. The initial application and various forms are also available at

• Marianne Mills is the program director of Southeast Senior Services which offers home and community-based services for older Alaskans throughout the region. SESS is a part of Catholic Community Service and assists all persons regardless of their faith.

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