Assisted Living Communities and Adult Family Homes-What is the Difference?

What’s the difference between an adult family home and an assisted living community? There’s a huge difference when it comes to the right fit for an individual. When I started in this industry in 1988, our communities were called “retirement homes”. Even then I wondered, who in their right mind “retires” and then moves into one of these places? The term assisted living came much later, but really fits what these communities truly are. However, having said that, one does not have to be in need of any assistance to move in. I had many people move into assisted living communities that only wanted the social aspect of communal living or they were tired of cooking for themselves (or NOT cooking for themselves was more like it). The idea of having someone cook, clean up and do their housekeeping sounded pretty darn good. No more property taxes, yard and home maintenance – someone else doing all that is very inviting.
Now that I am an Eldercare Consultant, I have been introduced to adult family homes-residential homes that can provide care for individuals who may get lost in an apartment building that consists of 50 to 100 apartments. I recently worked with a client whose father was in a memory care community. They were looking for another option for various reasons and I asked her if she would consider an adult family home. Her exact words were “They creep me out.” Her perspective on what an adult family home was that her father would be moving into someone’s house. She, like so many people, had no idea what an adult family home really was. He is now scheduled to move into a beautiful home in Gig Harbor and they are very impressed and happy.
In my many years as an administrator, I looked at them as competitors in a sense. However, now after being in dozens of them from Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pierce and King County, I am so thoroughly impressed. These homes are often run by RN’s, LPN’s, and highly educated business people who have worked in the healthcare industry for years. These are homes designed specifically for the care of those elderly people who do better in smaller environments and provide a high level of care that I find many people know so little about.
An assisted living community consists of an apartment, a place where residents feel they still have their own “home”, yet right outside their doors are a varied amount of services and help if ever needed. So for independent minded people,this works well. Perhaps your loved one needs additional care and currently they are sitting in front of a television and you want more for them. In an assisted living apartment, they could easily be doing the same. They would go to a main dining room to eat, but residents can still remain isolated.
All adult family homes in Washington are licensed for a maximum of six people, with some having as few as four. For individuals who need more one on one care or more personal attention this works beautifully. Residents can still have their own “home”. Yes, it is a single bedroom, but they still have the remainder of the home to live in. I have clients that have moved in and thrived, folding laundry, setting the table at meal times, visiting with the others in the home. I have walked into homes where they had a laptop for the residents to email, Facebook (yes!) and play solitaire if they wanted. Some participate in the meal preparation, baking and cleaning up.
Both types of homes are licensed and inspected by the state. I am able to research past enforcement actions, which I highly recommend when choosing the right community or home for your loved one. Based on what family members share with me when they call and ask for my help I can usually tell immediately what would be a good fit. Do you think it’s time for someone you know to begin looking at options? Call me and I can help direct you to the most appropriate based on your loved one’s personal needs and desires. There are many wonderful options available when you have some help finding them.

Author: Jill Bellis, Graham & Graham Eldercare Consultants LLC

Providing Guidance and Care Options for Families