How does a Nursing Home compare with a typical Adult Family Home in the Seattle area?

Nursing homes have, through the ages, been a popular institution to move to, and for a number of reasons, but an Adult Family Home is definitely more desirable for the resident on a day-to-day living basis. Let’s look at some of the biggest differences.

Capacity – a limit on Adult Family Homes’ residents makes them more like home

In Washington State, there is an upper limit of six residents in any one home claiming to be an Adult Family Home. By the way, a family might rent out rooms and even charge for meals for people staying with them, and they don’t have that same limit of six persons, but they can't claim to be an Adult Family Home. The very specific protections for residents in Adult Family Homes are exactly what makes them a lot nicer for an elderly person to live in. With only six persons in the home, it doesn’t take long to get acquainted with everyone under the roof.

In a Nursing Home, you will see, necessarily, more staff and more residents. It’s more like living in a hotel. The larger number of staff means it’s almost impossible for any one staff member to get to know and truly understand the needs of an individual resident. If you like solitude – I mean of the variety where you don’t really know the people around you – a Nursing Home might give you what you need. If you want it to be more like living with a family, then, you’ve guessed it, an Adult Family Home is the place for you.

Flexibility – Individual food requirements in an Adult Family Home

Of the AFHs I’ve visited, a percentage of them offer great flexibility in food choices. Nursing Homes do give you a choice, but usually don’t usually let you ask for a snack at any time of the day or night. Mind you, not all Adult Family Homes do that either so ask ahead about what kind of food flexibility an Adult Family Home offers to its residents. The good ones, mostly because it really does feel like a family living space, can almost offer anything the resident might want.

Flexibility – visiting times and daily structure is usually better in an Adult Family Home

Again due to the resident capacity restriction, Adult Family Home employees can often accommodate the unusual visiting time requirements of a resident’s family visitors. A Nursing Home, because they usually have dozens if not hundreds of residents, simply can’t manage without having more rigid visiting times and schedules in general.

The Cost – Pay a little more in an Adult Family Home. It’s worth it if you have it

A Nursing Home can spread the cost of the establishment across many residents. If, for example, a Nursing Home had a hundred residents, they might only need one person at night – maybe two – to keep watch. An Adult Family Home, if they offer wake staff, can spread that cost over only the six residents. At the same time, when an emergency does arise, the staff at an Adult Family Home is more likely to understand the resident with the emergency. That’s a big deal at 3am, when it’s dark and you need to make a quick decision.

Security – in Adult Family Homes, all residents in the building get a thorough background check

Even if the house in which an Adult Family Home is located has many more rooms than are used, they can’t rent out the extra space to anyone who has not had a background check. Because it can be assumed prescription drugs are likely more commonly found where seniors live (at home, in a Nursing Home, or in an Adult Family Home). A physical house is much easier to control as far as security is concerned.

The staff can quickly get to know everyone, and the residents the staff, so anyone out of place would be obvious in an Adult Family Home. A Nursing Home, because of the far greater number of people milling about on any given day, could offer a potential thief a lot more anonymity and therefore opportunity. He could slip around largely unnoticed. Certainly, a Nursing Home offers more security than a hotel, but the sheer number of people makes it easier to hide in the crowd. Security concerns, in a world of pharmaceutical theft, is a constant concern for Nursing Homes and Adult Family Homes alike. It’s just that, in Adult Family Homes, it’s a much easier problem to handle because of the limited number of people.

Security – Knowing your caretaker knows you

When an elderly person runs into an emergency health issue, time is of the essence. When the wake staff at 3am runs to their aid, it’s very useful to understand what the problem is, obviously. If the staff member has to do any research on the spot, precious time is wasted. The ability to respond in the optimal way – immediately – can mean the difference between life and death.

The staff at an Adult Family Home knows all of the residents within days of starting work there. At a Nursing Home, there is of course proper procedures for any emergency, but no one staff member can know everything that’s going on with each resident.

Adult family Homes – There’s no place like home

It’s difficult to make any blanket statement of course, but the whole idea of an AFH is that it feels like family, but with the added security of a house that’s designed for seniors and the typical assistance they would need. Mostly, though, it’s got to feel like home. They are usually in a regular house, all right, but with safety features everywhere. A Nursing Home, on the other hand, is housed in a larger building. Many of them try to make it as homely as possible, but it’s hard to make a hotel feel like home.

Nursing homes do save you a bit of cash, though. And a resident can very likely find friends of his or her choosing in a home that hosts a hundred or more people.

Before you make any final decision, it’s always good to pay each an actual visit. Imagine yourself living there every day. The answer will be pretty obvious to you.

Be sure to check back next week when I talk about Retirement Communities.