OLYMPIA, Wash. - Adult Family Homes were the subject of a Seattle Times investigation last year that people are still talking about - particularly in the State Legislature. It revealed shocking cases of neglect and abuse of older residents who pay to be cared for in a home-like setting.
New legislation proposes more frequent inspections of these homes, along with more training for the people who run them, and it raises their licensing fees to cover the costs. Many Adult Family Home providers oppose Senate Bill 5092, saying the fee hikes would put some out of business. But the bill sponsor, Sen. Karen Keiser (D-Dist. 33, Kent), says the current license fee is just $100 a year, and taxpayers pick up the rest of the tab for inspections.
"To run a business like this, an annual license fee of $1,000 to $2,000 is not out of line - not when people who are private-pay patients are paying $4,000 to $5,000 a month."
Keiser points out that nursing homes and boarding homes pay fees that cover inspections of their facilities; the legislation would require the same of Adult Family Homes. It would also increase fines for violations and set up a council of residents and family members to advise the industry.
AARP Washington is among the groups backing Senate Bill 5092, according to State Director Doug Shadel.
"According to the Department of Social and Health Services, the number of abuse and neglect complaints in Adult Family Homes rose 45 percent between 2005 and 2009. That's of concern to us."
Shadel says he also has some personal experience with this issue, when he looked for places to relocate his parents. He said some homes were clean and friendly; others, not so much.
"My brother and I visited over a dozen Adult Family Homes, and we were shocked at the variation in the conditions. We weren't sure at all whether or not anybody was watching these homes in action. So we stayed away from it; we did not put our own parents into those homes."
Some of the complaint increase can be attributed to a boom in the number of Adult Family Homes. And no matter what the future of the legislation, Shadel says family and friends of residents must play a stronger role in observing and reporting problems.
Both the Senate bill and its House counterpart, House Bill 1277, are in the Ways and Means committees.