What is the value of a "Wake Staff" in an Adult Family Home or nursing home in Seattle?

“Wake Staff” is a term commonly used in the Adult Family Home world that refers to staff who stay on premises overnight, not just during daytime hours. It usually also implies that there are caregiver staff on site round the clock, not just when it’s dark. And what makes this feature of an Adult Family Home most valuable is, it means your loved one is always just a few yards away from professional help in the event of any emergency. In fact, it’s the single biggest factor in Adult Family Home care when it comes to personal security for your loved one, and I would not consider an Adult Family Home if it did not have that aspect to it.

They say that “nothing good happens between midnight and four AM”. Nowhere is that more true for the elderly, where often, the combination of dark and isolation might present the perfect opportunity for a person to have a minor accident that escalates into a big problem, potentially.

This is why Wake Staff is critical in an Adult Family Home

In a properly equipped Adult Family Home, there are, among many other things, pressure mats beside each bed. When a resident climbs out of bed to go to the bathroom – or falls out accidentally – the Wake Staff there on site knows immediately, because a pressure switch in the mat beside the resident’s bed sends a signal to her. A simple trip to the bathroom, therefore, can be assisted by that on-site caregiver, and that small twenty steps can go without incident. Compare that to the hypothetical situation where the resident makes their way to the bathroom, but loses their footing there, perhaps twists their ankle while they fall, and are unable to call for assistance. Even when there is the means to call for help, how far away is it, and who exactly is called?

For one, Wake Staff lower the risk of an accident in the first place, and secondly, if there is an accident, there is help right there on the spot.

Employees working at an Adult Family Home often have a background of being a retired nurse. That gives such an employee an enormous set of skills to handle pretty much any situation. If indeed an ambulance needs to be called, a retired registered nurse is probably the ideal person to decide when to make that call, and how to handle the situation until help arrives.

Without Wake Staff, the residents are, more or less, left up to their own devices for a significant portion of the day. For many residents – and the families who love them – the whole idea of an Adult Family Home is that their loved one is taken care of 100% of the time. Living at home with one’s adult children didn’t offer that round-the-clock care because people were at work and the senior parent was left alone at home for many hours of the day. If you are living in an Adult Family Home without Wake Staff, you probably have to be relatively independent. You must be steady enough on your feet, for example, to make it to and from the bathroom at three AM if you have to. To be honest, even in my fifties, if I ever have to visit the bathroom during the night, I am also a little shaky on my feet, simply because I am sleepy. I can well imagine what it might be like when I am older. Having someone to physically lean on for that short trip would be a blessing.

Many relatively minor problems, properly taken care of, can stay just that: minor problems. If a resident falls out of bed at four AM, and there’s no one close by to assist them getting back into bed, they might be stuck there for a few hours until help arrives. That’s a pretty unusual case, of course, but speaks to the issue of immediate care being available. Lying on a floor for a few hours might be fine for the average warm-bodied teenager, but as we age, we can be more subject to the cold than younger generations might be. I remember my own grandmother, at eighty, had a relatively minor fall outside her home. She didn’t break any bones, or hardly even bruised herself, but her body did respond a little with a bit of shock. Her body temperature began to fall, and even at the hospital, they could not do anything to help her. At one point, they wrapped her in a kind of space-age blanket that is supposed to retain 99% of heat, and and also provide extra heat. But within the span of about four hours, she went from total independence to passed away, and it all started with a fall. Of course, her body must have been quite frail to respond to such a supposedly minor fall in that way, and perhaps her “time was near”, but often, a minor “trigger” even can be totally avoided and comfortable life can continue.

Personally, I would not like to be left alone in a house with five other residents if all of us are elderly. Not only might I be worried about myself directly, what kind of stress levels occur when one of the other residents is in crisis? It’s dark and there are only the six residents present. Everyone gets woken up, and some might feel totally helpless with the experience of someone near them in trouble. We all want to help, but image the far lower stress levels if Wake Staff is present!

Better comfort level for the family they left behind

A common previous address of an Adult Family Home resident is that of their adult children. For them, the move of their beloved parent to a new home can be a bitter-sweet experience. Many people feel guilt around no longer being able to look after their aging parent, and I can only imagine how one might feel if they knew that parent did not have able-bodied care close at hand every night of the year. I know it is what I would want. Wake Staff is not just for the comfort of Adult Family Home residents, but for all the loving family around them.