GOSHEN, N.Y. (Sept.5, 2014) — For Diane Baker, it is a labor of love – one that she has been doing for 25 years. For the senior citizens that she cares for every day, it is an opportunity to live within a family home, rather than a skilled nursing facility.
Baker and her husband provide a home and a family environment for two senior citizens – Margaret Ehleider and Ruth-Ann Booth – as part of the Elant Adult Foster Family Care program.
There are so many advantages to being a part of the family experience. For example, when one of Baker’s dogs had puppies this winter, Ehleider and Booth were there to enjoy them. “They would hear the cries and go in and check on them,” said Baker. “They were really excited.”
Baker would keep the puppies downstairs but bring them up – two at a time – to the women in the kitchen so they could visit with them. “Every day, they kept saying, ‘Where are the puppies?’ so I would go down and bring them up,” said Baker. “They just loved them.”
The Elant Foster Family Care program currently has 28 clients in 17 homes, said Dana Pavelock, Elant Choice’s Director of Business Development. Elant matches elderly or disabled adult clients with families in Dutchess County. The families share their homes and provide personal care for the client in the stimulating and nourishing environment of family life. Elant also provides training to the caregivers, said Pavelock.
Michelle Pampolina, Director of the Foster Family Care program, said that the program is ideal for elderly and disabled adults who do not need total care, but do require 24-hour supervision and cannot get that care at home. “We can enroll people into the program who are alert and able to take care of themselves, but need supervision and some assistance with daily activities,” she said. For qualified clients, the program is an alternative to residential or nursing home care.
Foster families and their homes are carefully screened for suitability and family members are thoroughly trained in the needs of clients before being accepted into the program. Compatibility between the client and the foster family is paramount in making the match.
“It is a really, really good program,” said Baker. “I have cared for several ladies with interesting personal stories and a gentleman in our home. They try to match you up with people you’ll get along with.”
Caregivers receive payment for providing room and board and personal care services, and enjoy the many personal satisfactions of living alongside an older, uniquely experienced person.
Clients in the Foster Family Care program receive scheduled visits by a registered nurse for services and care management in accordance with their physician’s orders.
Baker said it was by chance that she became a Foster Family Care caregiver. She had been staying at home to raise her 2-year-old son, who was chronically ill at the time. Her sister saw an article in the newspaper and brought it to her as an idea for stay-at-home work.
In the last 25 years, Baker has had 20 seniors live at her home – some for as long as four or five years.
“You get attached to people,” said Baker. “You can’t help it. They become like family.”
“Some clients live with families for years and years,” said Pavelock. “Foster families are so committed. They are committed to keeping a person in their home and creating a family environment.”
Ehleider and Booth spend most days at a local senior activity center from about 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., so Baker has time to do shopping, get medicine or pick up whatever they want or need. She also has her husband as a backup caregiver, which is required by the program. In addition to the care Baker provides to the clients within her home, she also includes them on family outings such as trips to the store, into town or to the park.
For those providers who need a respite from providing care for any reason, such as a vacation out of town, the program provides a substitute caregiver in another home for the client.
Foster families may be couples with or without children, single parents or adults living alone or with others. Caregivers come from various backgrounds and are persons who are willing and able to be trained as personal care workers. They are screened, references are checked and a home visit is conducted. Details such as bedrooms, bathroom accommodations, wheelchair accessibility, closet space, smoke detectors and other safety features in the house are checked by Elant staff. For Baker, it meant having things in her home like a walk-in shower, shower bar and shower chair, as well as having a rail for the stairs and adding fire extinguishers. The homes are also inspected and certified by the state’s Department of Social Services.
Baker is an advocate of the program and providing foster family care because it is such an enriching thing for both the care giver and the client. “We have met a lot of really good people. My husband and I and our son – when he was younger – have enjoyed having an extended family.”
For additional information about the Elant Adult Foster Family Care Program, call 845.831.0165.