Aging or disabled Vermonters are often faced with difficult decisions with limited long-term care opportunities. Unable to live on their own, the options were moving into residential care, a nursing facility, or the less than ideal situation of staying in their own home and living alone, without adequate support.

Luckily, a new opportunity has been provided by the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living in the form of the Adult Family Care home program which began in September 2013. The effort, according to Commissioner Susan Wehry is to "make Vermont the best state in which to grow old or to live with a disability."

The state has empowered United Counseling Service to work with people who want to open their homes as an AFC provider to assist seniors and individuals with disabilities, who are either residing in a Nursing Home and don’t want to, or who wish to avoid a Nursing Home placement.

We recently made our first placement into an AFC provider home, offering this individual the opportunity to live in a community and home-based setting instead of a facility.

The goal of this program is to provide community-based alternatives for elders and people with disabilities who meet certain eligibility requirements, so that they are able to continue living in a family setting and be an active community participant.

The program is designed to support autonomy and maximize independence. UCS has been providing this family living option for individuals with an intellectual disability for more than 30 years and is pleased to be able to provide this as an option to others.

This innovative program helps to keep our aging population out of nursing homes, and saves taxpayer dollars in the process.

An AFC provider is offered a tax-exempt contract, as well as a negotiated room and board payment, to provide sound living conditions for someone, and they’re not alone in providing care. UCS and the local Area Agency on Aging or Certified Home Health Agency are active partners, providing case management for the individual in care to ensure their needs are met and the home provider is not overworked. In addition, funding is allocated to the provider to ensure that there is an adequate break from the care responsibilities. Many people may require adaptations to the home, or adaptive equipment, due to accessibility needs, and there are funds to assist with this.

The benefits are felt for the home provider and the person they care for. While the individual is able to live in a comfortable family setting, the home provider is rewarded with the opportunity to provide care and help someone live their remaining years with dignity.

In the end, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. In particular, we are able to give back to the seniors who worked diligently to develop our community and establish this as a great place to live and raise a family. In the later years of their life, our seniors should enjoy comfort and acknowledgment for the fruits of their tireless years of labor.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an Adult Family Care provider, please contact Bonnie Jamieson at 802-442-5491 for more information.

Kathleen Hamilton is director of Developmental Services of UCS.