Monday, February 13, 2012

Opening a Licensed 3-4 Bed Adult Family Home in Wisconsin

Opening a licensed Adult Family Home (AFH) in Wisconsin takes a whole lot more than willing hands and a big heart. Before you take the plunge, consider the following:

Operating a licensed Adult Family Home in Wisconsin is likely to challenge your skills, finances, relationships and patience... to the max. What will it cost in terms of your personal time and energy? Your privacy and family life? What about the impact on your children, your partner, or even your pets? Residents may come to you with serious health problems, symptoms of mental illness or behaviors that are difficult to manage. Operating an AFH usually means providing the services your residents need... day in... day out... both day and night. Being an adult family home provider can be immensely rewarding. But, it can come with overwhelming responsibilities and great personal cost, too.

Wisconsin's licensed AFH's are closely regulated by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WI-DHS). Operators must know and follow all the applicable rules and laws. License applicants need to pass background checks and financial reviews. There are requirements for initial training and annual continuing education. The home must meet all applicable state and local building and zoning requirements, as well as the standards set by the AFH licensing rules... And meeting all these requirements to obtain your AFH license doesn't mean you are 'home free'. Maintaining the home and its operation in accordance with these requirements is something you'll need to do 24/7. You never know when WI-DHS staff will show up at your door for a surprise inspection.

Operating a licensed AFH in Wisconsin also means managing a small business. You are responsible for your own market research to determine who needs what type of services in your community. You will need to promote your services with the placing agencies, attract residents, negotiate contracts, develop and maintain your resident and business records. Even if you plan to provide most of the care and services yourself, you will need trained and qualified staff to fill in when you are ill, have family obligations or need to attend to other business. This means finding, screening, hiring, training and supervising staff... And maintaining staff records, income tax, expense and payroll records.

But, the most important thing you may need to consider is the work you'll be doing with the residents, day after day. Are you able to assess the care needs and preferences of each resident and create an individualized service plan, just for them? Are you willing to assist residents with their personal hygiene, dressing, bathing, toileting, eating, walking or moving from one place to another? Can you provide nutritious meals and snacks while balancing your budget? Offer meaningful activities other than  television? Safely provide supervision and assistance to residents whose behavior may place them (or others) at risk for harm? Administer medications and manage multiple resident prescriptions and doctor visits? Monitor residents for symptoms of illness or medication side effects? 

When adult family home providers close their doors in the first 2 or 3 years, it's usually because they didn't realize how complex and demanding the work would be. Closing isn't only hard on providers and their families. To the residents and their families it means losing a home, trusted caregivers and a family of friends. So, do your homework, and some serious soul-searching before you send in that AFH license application. If you're going to do it, do it well... and it may be the most meaningful, the most important work you'll ever do!