Hello! Please find below some of the most frequently asked questions (‘FAQs’) we get here at LifeNet. If you have a question that is not addressed here, email us and we will consider adding it to this page!
From LifeNet Adults and/or their Family Members:
Team members will build rapport and the relationship with a LifeNet adult in a number of clinically-informed ways including (but not limited to): engaging in discussion and sharing of activities that are personally interesting to the adult; getting to know/observing daily/weekly/monthly routines and structures; building trust and consistency in the meeting schedule; providing support and validation related to the central challenges in the adult’s life; building appreciation for an adult’s capabilities, strengths, and resiliency; empowering the adult as the “expert” in their own life to set priorities for support; building understanding into the priorities that the adult has identified (even if those priorities may be different from other team members’ priorities for the adult).
PA and SP: A Personal Advocate (PA) is a clinician with education, training, and experience in a field like occupational therapy, mental health counseling, or social work - at LifeNet a PA leads the coordination between themselves and the SP to provide team-based support to clients. They tend to provide remote check-ins with clients, lead team meetings, and have collaborative conversations with other providers. A Support Partner (SP) is a direct care professional with experience and training working 1:1 with clients in their homes and communities - at LifeNet a SP works closely with the PA and LifeNet Adult to carry out activities in person with the client during longer visits. They participate in team meetings and contribute ideas for client support regularly.
Therapist and case manager: Therapists are clinicians that work with clients on individualized mental health goals while a case manager is a clinician that might help a client connect with a therapist and/or carry out some of the suggestions that a therapist makes. Therapists tend to focus on developing individualized treatment plans to support a client’s mental health or other specific goals. At LifeNet, a Case Manager/Personal Advocate is actively interested in working with clients on their day to day responsibilities, connecting them with additional specialized supports, and collaborating with other team members.
Friend and LifeNet team member: A friend is a fellow community member with whom one has a relationship because of willingness to mutually get to know each other, mutually support each other, and/or mutually share interests with. A LifeNet team member or employee is a paid professional with whom one has a relationship with because of mutual agreement that the client will receive services and support from the provider.
Personal Advocates (PAs) and Support Partners (SPs) meet regularly in 1:1 meetings (usually weekly) to discuss updates, observations, concerns, and recommendations regarding how LifeNet is and can be a support and advocate.
Each LifeNet adult’s case is overseen by a Clinical Supervisor, who supports the primary PA and sometimes the primary SP. Additionally, all front-line staff and leadership in the LifeNet department engage in case consultations about each adult, to provide a forum for support and brainstorming to the primary team for best practices and support ideas. All front-line staff have access to relevant records in the event of the need for an on-call intervention.
The Clinical Supervisor is an independently licensed professional who directs the clinical aspects of the program. The CS provides weekly and as needed supervision to frontline staff to develop optimal engagement and motivation, guide ongoing education, and provide support. The CS also guides the clinical eligibility screening for new clients to ensure goodness of fit, often collaborating with existing providers and other team members during that process. The CS provides ad hoc consultation and support to clients directly from time to time and provides clinical consultation to staff during crises.
When staff are on vacation or have other time off, PA check-ins or SP visits may be canceled, rescheduled, shortened, and/or covered by another team member – this depends on staff availability, client preference, and client need. The LifeNet team will communicate changes ahead of time when possible (i.e., for scheduled vacation days or closed AANE holidays). We appreciate your understanding and flexibility with scheduling to allow our staff time to rest and recharge in order to best support you!
Rescheduling requests are welcomed when needed and are subject to staffing availability. We aim to be flexible and make every effort to meet at the frequency intended but cannot 100% guarantee accommodation of reschedule requests, especially when made with limited notice or when due to a no show (not attending scheduled meeting and no communication/response to staff outreach). Additional details of attendance and no-show policy are below:
LifeNet relies on adults to participate in PA check-ins and SP visits as outlined in their LifeNet Support Plan, unless modifications are made in advance. We respond to no-shows in the following ways:
- PA check-ins: If a LifeNet adult is unable to be reached by a PA for a scheduled PA check-in, the PA may continue to reach out to the adult.
- If the adult is not reached by the time of the next scheduled check-in, the PA will reach out to the adult’s emergency or other contacts.
- SP visits: If a LifeNet adult does not show for a scheduled in-person SP visit, the PA may continue to reach out to the adult through the next 24 hours.
- If the adult still cannot be reached after 24 hours, the PA will reach out to the adult’s emergency or other contacts. If there is no response from the contacts and/or the LifeNet adult for an additional 24 hours, LifeNet will initiate an in-person wellness check by staff and/or local police.
Depending on the specific adult and situation, LifeNet may adjust these steps with an individual. If attendance is a persistent challenge despite adaptations and interventions, staff will review a detailed participation agreement and may recommend alternative services that are more accessible and/or on-site for the adult.
In person SP visits are strongly encouraged and preferred. However, there are instances when an in-person visit is not possible due to scheduling conflicts, illness, inclement weather, or other circumstances. If a virtual visit is offered and accepted, an additional “make-up” in person SP visit will not be scheduled. In person SP visits will resume as soon as possible and part of the standing schedule of support visits.
Traditionally, LifeNet adults are offered in person SP visit time up to 2 hours at the frequency per month outlined by the service tier. The frequency of SP visits per month outlines the frequency of SP travel time allotted. Nontraditionally, some adults prefer to increase the frequency of SP contact while maintaining the total amount of time together – this schedule modification is considered on a case by case basis and subject to scheduling availability; when the frequency of SP contact is increased, some points of contact must be virtual to allow the allotted travel time to remain the same.
Payments do not change during Summer and Winter blocks. During these periods we offer the same “amount” of support to all adults, even though the support may look different. For example, there may be additional planning, administrative record keeping, and small group offerings despite fewer or different 1:1 PA check-ins or SP visits.
PA and SPs are not available 24/7 because at AANE LifeNet we support maintaining a boundary between work and personal life - time for staff to recharge sustains engagement in the program during work hours, reducing staff turnover. LifeNet offers an on call service for urgent problems that cannot wait until the next business day and that do not necessitate other emergency services. On call is staffed by various LifeNet team members who may or may not work directly with the LifeNet Adult. Team members who work on call have access to relevant records for any adult who may call on call, and we find that most on call situations require acute problem solving support vs. in-depth knowledge of a client’s history. LifeNet adults are invited to attend small group events and other gatherings to get to know additional team members if they would like.
Additional details of On Call are below:
Because problems can happen outside of traditional business hours (e.g. 9am-6pm), LifeNet offers on-call support to LifeNet adults when an issue arises that cannot wait until the following business day. This on-call service is available evenings, weekends, and holidays to offer timely and brief problem-solving support and/or connect LifeNet adults to appropriate emergency services when needed. On-call is staffed by LifeNet team members and while we cannot guarantee the staff is awake and/or immediately available 24x7, we respond as soon as messages are seen.
Because on-call LifeNet staff support is not available in-person and AANE is unable to hold a copy of clients’ personal keys to their residence, we encourage LifeNet adults to establish a “locked-out” problem solving plan. This can be stored in our client record management software as a reference for the on-call staff to prompt/orient the adult in need to their personalized plan (i.e., telephone numbers for the landlord, or name/contact for a personal contact who has a spare key, etc.).
We ask that LifeNet adults do not use on-call in the following instances:
- If there is a life-threatening emergency. Instead, call 9-1-1.
- If the need is not urgent. Instead, please send an email message to be seen the next business day or bring it to the next scheduled meeting.
If a LifeNet adult misuses on-call, alternative resources or strategies will be identified and offered; if misuse continues, LifeNet may revoke the individual’s access to on-call.
We evaluate the LifeNet program differently for each individual adult, as the priorities for each adult and the program designed to support them is different. Generally, we look for “markers” that the program is building an adult's capacity to live the life they want for themselves as connected with the adult’s identified priorities. Some examples may include: an adult reports that they feel more confident at work after navigating a conflict successfully; an adult utilizes the program for support when they encounter a challenge in the community; an adult maintains their ability to pay their bills on time despite transitions in living situation or income; an adult forges or maintains a romantic relationship; an adult learns to cook a new meal and does so consistently; an adult learns to ride public transportation so they can navigate their city more effectively. Those are only some examples! As a team, we are continually striving to improve the effectiveness of our interventions in order to maximize adults moving forward or maintaining momentum in their priorities. We do this through an ongoing process of assessment and evaluation (using evidence based instruments, quantitative and qualitative data collected from program participants including family members, and consultation), supervision, and collaboration with internal and external team members. We also make space at regular intervals to come together as a team and discuss how things are going so that everyone’s voice is heard while respecting an adult’s self-determination.
LifeNet team members are trained to go at an adult’s pace and at their direction. Building capacity to manage multiple priorities at once is always within scope, but may take time to develop. We have found that capitalizing on an adult’s own intrinsic motivation for making progress on their priorities rather than being more directive is the best way to make consistent progress over the long term. LifeNet is not a short term, goal oriented program; it is designed to set adults up for success in building the life they want over the entire life course.
LifeNet Adults are invited to meet other adults at small group activities which are offered weekly and at annual (or semi-annual) adult and family member community gatherings. A third way that adults in LifeNet can meet peers in the program is by telling their PA and SP that this a priority for them, and asking for help in identifying opportunities to develop new relationships. Some adults choose to connect 1:1 with peers in the program to talk or do an activity that is a shared interest. LifeNet does not mandate participation in social activities or peer matching.
LifeNet team members will consistently be assessing skills in the adult’s prioritized areas. When a skill development area is identified and aligns with the LifeNet Adult’s priorities, LifeNet staff may offer direct teaching for skills within the scope of LifeNet or make referrals to other professionals and services who can provide specific skill development support in the identified area.
LifeNet can support adults who identify these priorities in a number of ways. However, LifeNet staff are not job coaches, tutors, or realtors, and will often collaborate with professionals to support areas that are outside of the program’s scope.
LifeNet is a case management program with some focus on skill building. To that end, team members sometimes teach skills such as home maintenance and organization as a part of regular engagement with an adult. However, if the need or the desire of the adult is to have consistent cleaning and there are barriers to building that skill or following through, LifeNet would assist the adult and family in problem solving availability of resources that may be added to an adult’s team. LifeNet is not meant to provide services over the long term (such as cleaning, tutoring, therapy, etc.) although team members may have training or expertise in those areas; as the program focuses on managing the needs of the entire person rather than filling holes in an adult’s team of supports indefinitely.
We are continually evaluating goodness of fit both overall and within the service tier in formal and informal ways including tracking time use/allocation through our electronic case management system. If there is a discrepancy between tier and utilization, it will be a topic of discussion both with the adult and the payor to determine barriers, increase engagement and effectiveness, or potentially to up or down tier, depending on the needs and desires of the adult.
LifeNet’s staff are skilled at identifying and managing risks and concerns that may arise with the adults we work with. When a concern arises, LifeNet will work directly with the adult to review the concern and move towards a solution. Some concerns may be addressed quickly while others may take more time and depend on the readiness of the adult to participate in the problem solving process. Depending on the circumstance, this may include bringing in various other members of their support team. For example, if a mental health emergency arises LifeNet will support the adult in accessing their current mental health providers or emergency services. Similarly, if an issue arises at work and the adult has a job coach on their team we might support the adult in communicating with the job coach to gain further support. If they do not have an existing job coach, we might use this as an opportunity to pursue adding one to the adult’s team.
We believe privacy and confidentiality are both key ingredients to building trusted, long-term relationships between the LifeNet Adult and their LifeNet team. LifeNet Adults are asked to sign Release of Information consent forms for family and other team members who they wish LifeNet to be in touch with. In addition, we work to support our LifeNet adults in participating in communication with their various team members in the ways that work best for them.
LifeNet begins by completing an initial assessment to determine whether an adult is interested and their needs are a good fit for what the program can provide. After enrollment, LifeNet is continually assessing the appropriateness and fit of services offered to an adult. These conversations are part of weekly case consultation with peers and supervisors, with special attention paid during the first 90 days of enrollment and when life circumstances shift. These conversations will first occur within the LifeNet team and may eventually be brought directly to the individual adult and/or the wider team. Initially, collaborative problem solving and information gathering will be the focus, and depending on the input from team members, a shift in tier or an alternative service/program may be recommended.
From LifeNet Family Members:
This is a great question! Be curious about the work that is being done and the relationships being built; be proud that your Adult Family Member is willing to invest a great deal of time in building these relationships; be open to recognizing the successes that take place, both large and small!
As a rule, LifeNet staff do not provide regular “progress updates” as a part of the program structure unless this is a priority for the adult. Even if the latter is true, it is likely that LifeNet staff would work with the adult to build their ability to communicate directly with their family over time. LifeNet staff spend the majority of their time supporting the adult directly and designing and implementing interventions related to the adult’s priorities. Depending on the service tier, an adult will be offered opportunities for “team meetings” throughout the year, and adults are encouraged to invite family members to those meetings to share progress, updates, and challenges.
We understand the instinct to want to tell us everything you know about your Adult Family Member and the knowledge that a family member builds over the life course is invaluable! The fact is that no one will ever be able to replace or convey the knowledge that a family member builds throughout years and years of advocacy and support. The good news is that our team members are experts at getting to know our adults, asking for support from family members and other collaborators, meeting the adult where they are, and beginning to work on priorities at their pace. The benefit of having a trained case manager on the team is that family members can settle into the role of “mom” or “brother” and not have to engage in some of the tasks that case management professionals can easily do. Our staff can not replace parents or other caregivers in supporting adults; the way that they provide support will be different, which can understandably be frustrating and scary when family members imagine no longer being as involved. This discomfort requires a great deal of trust from the families of the adults that we support, and we can not explain how thankful we are to be trusted by so many adults and families!
We have found that having space that is confidential and reserved expressly for the adult’s voice is the best way to build a secure and trusting relationship. Adults often invite family members to attend team meetings throughout the year, but our regularly scheduled check ins and support partner visits are usually between the adults and our staff.
The program focuses on supporting the adult primarily, and caseloads are balanced to provide direct support to adults. When PAs or SPs spend regular time communicating with family members, it eventually does reduce the time available to the adult themself. As a program, we also try to foster a healthy work/life balance in our employees, with the specific goal of creating a sustainable workplace where people can work for many years. This is beneficial for everyone, including our adults. Maintaining this environment does sometimes require that our staff say no or delay responding to family members in order to respond appropriately to the adults on their caseload during their work time.
We do not offer on call for parents or family members of adults. Due to the adult-centered nature of the program, we wish to hone our ability to support the adult directly and their ability to reach out for support from non-family. Adults may always reach out to program staff with concerns and staff will respond as indicated.
Our goal is always to put the adult in the “driver’s seat” in setting agendas and priorities with LifeNet. Of course, this role may be new to adults and learning to be directive, asking for what you need, and recognizing the things that need to be supported are skills within themselves! For many adults, the first year or even longer in the program is focused on building skills in this area. We have found that too much input from members of the team for whom these skills are well developed interferes with the process of assisting adults in finding their voice and directing the course of the program. While our process is generally collaborative, the LifeNet Adult has the final say on what is or is not part of their LSP and meetings.
Our first priority is always managing risk in a safe and effective manner. If LifeNet staff had concerns about an adult, we would follow internal protocols to manage those concerns safely, which may include contacting emergency services, emergency contacts, or other resources. However, non-emergent concerns are handled in a more collaborative, nuanced manner, understanding that change doesn’t happen overnight, allowing for the relationship to develop between the program and an adult, and honoring the programmatic goal of being adult-centered. The personal advocate is the main point of contact regarding concerns and has specialized and advanced training in managing risk and increasing motivation.
While we understand LifeNet family members’ interest in their Adult Family Member’s life, LifeNet follows traditional confidentiality practices and respects the LifeNet adult’s voice in what information they would like shared with other members of their team. The exception to this is situations where there are concerns for the LifeNet adult’s immediate safety or the safety of someone else. In these specific situations, safety is the priority and we work to inform all appropriate parties. In situations where there is not an immediate safety risk, we often work with our LifeNet adults to understand the perspective of others and develop ways of communication that respect the LifeNet adult’s wishes and allow for information to be shared.
LifeNet was designed to be a long-term support for our adults and families. This was in part because we know it takes time for many of our adults to feel comfortable sharing parts of their lives. We also know that understanding what is important for someone else to know is a common challenge for autistic adults. These are two reasons why we focus on building a strong relationship during the first year or so in the program. We believe that when adults feel safe and listened to they are most likely to share their unique experiences and perspectives. This also gives LifeNet the opportunity to learn what ways of communication work best for the adult.
That said, if there is something that family members or other members of the team think would be helpful for LifeNet to know, especially if it involves a safety concern, they are welcome to communicate with the LifeNet team directly. LifeNet’s program structure also includes opportunities for communication and collaboration as a team through various surveys and team meetings.
At LifeNet, we believe in the principles of self-determination and a “dignity of risk” perspective in which all adults have the right to make decisions about their own lives and that all decisions may not result in positive experiences. We also believe everyone deserves support for making decisions if and when they desire it. In line with this perspective, we work with our LifeNet adults to foster informed decision making skills while respecting their right to self-determination. At times, this may lead to decisions with expected or unexpected consequences. While these may be uncomfortable times for the LifeNet adult, family members, and others on their team, these times also offer opportunities for learning, growth, and greater insight for future decision making. LifeNet does not aim to eliminate every problem or natural consequence from the adult’s life. Instead we look to be a consistent, understanding support for our adults and families to navigate the ups and downs that are inherent to the universal human experience.