By Rusty Bradshaw
Serving as a foster host for adults, especially those with disabilities, is not for the faint of heart, but it can provide personal rewards.
Sun City West residents Russell “Smitty” and Joy Smith have fostered adults for 14 years in their home. While the effort has its drawbacks, they have enjoyed the time they have spent with their clients.
“You feel enrichment, both spiritually and mentally,” Ms. Smith said. “We don’t think our lives are over, and we have a lot to offer.”
But being a foster host takes total commitment, Ms. Smith said. Her husband agreed.
“Walking away is just too common place these days,” he said.
The Smith currently foster two women, both with severe disabilities. Lois Blonstein, in her 70s, is a deaf mute and Brittany Brown, 27, is wheelchair-bound and talks with difficulty.
“But they both have sharp minds,” Ms. Smith said. “Brittany knows technology and handles her own money.”
Ms. Blonstein was alert enough to save Mr. Smith’s life. While Ms. Smith was in a doctor’s appointment with Ms. Brown, Mr. Smith had a heart attack in the parking lot. Ms. Blonstein was cognitive of the problem’s seriousness and raced to find Ms. Smith to help and was able to communicate the serious problem outside. While Mr. Smith’s heart actually stopped, he was revived.
“And when we go somewhere, they are both insistent on all the seat belts being fastened before we start driving,” Mr. Smith said.
Ms. Brown said the Smiths have made a positive difference in her life.
“They are so important to me,” she said. “They are like my family.”
The Smiths have an adopted Korean daughter, now grown and serving in the Glendale Police Department, and when they became empty nesters in 2001 they thought about adopting again. However, because they wanted to live in a retirement community, adopting someone younger than 18 was not allowed.
“I have a handicapped sister, and I thought, ‘I could do that (care for handicapped),’” Ms. Smith said.
There are about 120 licensed adult foster care homes in Arizona, according to information on the Senior Care Guide website, www.theseniorcareguide.com. The homeowner must live in the home and provide the care and is licensed for up to four residents. Those with more than four are considered assisted living homes.
Adult foster hosts are paid, but it is not a large amount, and not the main reason the Smiths got involved, according to Ms. Smith.
“The pay is about half what it used to be,” she said. “Half what the state pays goes to the licensing agency and the hosts get the rest.”
People who enjoy the surroundings of a family home type environment might be overwhelmed living in a large facility. In the home-like atmosphere of an adult foster care home, they can enjoy a meal at the dining-room table with three other like minded residents or visit with the others in the family living room; yet, watch TV in the privacy of their own bedroom.
Caregivers’ responsibilities vary depending on the foster resident’s level of independence. In the Smiths’ situation, they do most everything for their foster adults. But they need time to do things for them, such as laundry and cleaning the home. Mr. Smith takes the women to Unity, 9059 W. Lake Pleasant Parkway, Peoria, a division of Family Partners, every day for the agency’s adult day care program. Foster hosts also need their own leisure time and sometimes take it during this day care period.
“In addition to giving us time to do the work at home, they are involved in a variety of activities there,” Ms. Smith said.
Day care provides other opportunities for foster clients, according to Christina Hockenbroch, Unity direct care coordinator.
“We teach them to be independent by setting goals,” she explained. “We also have day programs and outings away from the facility.”
Adult day care centers also provide classes for caregivers.
Unity is a state recognized adult foster care licensing agency and as such is responsible to make sure each foster home is meeting standards.
“Every foster home must be licensed, and that license is renewed every three years,” Ms. Hockenbrock said. “We also make monthly home visits.”
While not a state adult foster care licensing agency, Benevilla, 16752 N. Greasewood St., provides a variety of day care programs at its Surprise main campus and branch facilities in Sun City and Peoria. The Smiths utilized some of Benevilla’s services until Unity proved to be a better fit for them.
“Benevilla does not provide adult foster care, per definition, since our members are only in our care from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” Jay Lickus, Benevilla marketing coordinator, stated in an email. “Our day programs are an alternative to adult foster care and most of our members that utilize our facilities continue to live at home with family.”
All Benevilla locations provide the latest in proven therapeutic methods for increased levels of happiness and engagement for all members, Mr. Lickus stated.
“Our programs are home-like, friendly and specially designed to best serve member needs,” he stated. “The setting for all services of this nature are comfortable and relaxing and all Benevilla life enrichment programs are conducted by sensitive, well-trained staff whose first priority is your comfort.”
The Arizona Department of Health Services uses a unique classification system for what is traditionally referred to as simply “adult foster care homes,” according to information on Senior Resources and News website, www.seniorresourcesandnews.com. Under the master heading of “Assisted Living Facilities,” there are two fundamental classifications for adult foster care establishments — Adult Foster Care Home: A home where room and board and care is provided for up to four residents with the owner/caregiver living on-premises; Assisted Living Home: A residence or facility that provides room and board and care for up to 10 residents.
Adult foster care homes and assisted living homes are required to provide supervisory and personal care, as well as basic room and board. Supervisory care means caregivers must make themselves continually aware of each resident’s functioning needs, provide help in the event of a crisis and facilitate medication management assistance. Personal care is help with all activities of daily living, such as grooming, bathing, dressing, etc.
Arizona Department of Health Services, Office of Assisted Living Licenses, regulates both programs.
West Valley licensing agencies
Age Care Limited
6827 N. 58th Ave., Glendale
American Focus Care
10000 N. 31st Ave., Suite C266, Phoenix
Arizona Integrated Residential and Education Services
2140 W. Greenway Road, No. 40, Phoenix
Brendal and Associates, LLC dba Genesis
26985 N. 97th Lane, Phoenix
Caring For Angels
9139 W. Thunderbird Road, Peoria
Creative Networks, dba ResCare Homecare
10555 W. Indian School Road, Suite D101, Avondale
9051 W. Kelton Lane, No. 7, Peoria
919 N. Dysart Road, Suite V, Avondale
Fostering Hope LLC
5609 W. Cactus Road, Glendale
Habitation and Independent Living Specialists, dba Anodyne
18301 N. 79th Ave., Suite C128, Glendale
Hearts & Homes LLC
2198 E. Camelback Road, Suite 250, Phoenix
Human Resource Training
1951 W. Camelback Road, Suite 450, Phoenix
Joseph Generation, Inc.
5961 W. Myrtle Ave., Glendale
2226 W. Northern Ave., C-140, Glendale
Sonoran Sky Community Services, Inc.
9601 N. Black Canyon Highway, Phoenix
1457 N. Elisso Felix Junior Way, Suite 107, Avondale
9059 N. Lake Pleasant Parkway, Suite A180, Peoria
Source: Arizona Department of Economic Security