Is life in a Nursing Home so different to that of an Adult Family Home?

The big difference between an Adult Family Home and a nursing home is the limit on the number of allowed residents. In the State of Washington, if a business wishes to operate as an Adult Family Home, it may only house a maximum of six residents. The reason for this is mostly to ensure a ‘family like’ setting, where the residents can become very well understood and close to the care giver staff. The reason the words ‘family home’ are included in the business description is a reflection on the hoped for nature of life at an Adult Family Home.

Why is a small number of residents a good thing at an Adult Family Home?

When a medical emergency occurs for a senior – or for anyone perhaps, for that matter – it often happens in the middle of the night. It’s dark and most people are asleep. In fact, even if your Adult Family Home has what are called ‘Wake Staff’, everyone in the home might in fact be asleep, but Wake Staff will be ready to take action. They usually sleep light, and somewhere close to the residents. Perhaps they have to just slip on their slippers, but they must be ready to assist any resident at any time. Consider the example of a resident with type 1 diabetes. Their sugar runs dangerously low, and they fall out of bed, setting off the pressure switch and alerting the care giving staff member. The solution to the problem is as simple as a sweet to immediately boost the resident’s sugar level up to a safe level. A care giver in an Adult Family Home will, because there are only a maximum of six residents, be quickly aware of any health issue that comes up. They will know that the resident has diabetes and will be able to take steps to remedy the situation.

Compare that situation to a place which either does not have Wake Staff or has dozens of residents. Every health or medical issue would first need to be looked up on charts or records before action was taken. And in the case of having no wake staff, an ambulance might have to be called. Then there’s the time it takes for it to arrive, and the medical people to find the person. Next, they have to diagnose the problem, and try to come up with a solution. Meanwhile thirty minutes have gone by. Thirty minutes can be an eternity at three AM.

The level of personal knowledge of each resident by the care giver staff makes an Adult Family Home an excellent choice for those wishing for a higher level of personal security for their loved one.

What about food choices in an Adult Family Home versus a Nursing Home?

Few of us are so reliable when it comes to taking care of ourselves, but when someone else is managing our food intake, it can often be much more easily managed. If you need food with high fiber, you personally might be tempted to reach for the bacon and eggs for breakfast, but if your care giver is preparing your food, you are more likely to get what you need, and not what you feel like when tempted.

With only six residents in the home, it’s relatively easy to custom-design the diet for each resident. If you’ve ever had to feed a family of a half dozen, you know how varied the food can be even over a single meal. On that note: the generation I grew up in, there was no such flexibility. My mother had seven children and their parents to feed three times a day. There was a tight budget, and each person was served what was for dinner on one plate, and that was it. If you didn’t eat what you got there and then, someone else might, and you’d likely go to bed hungry. In an Adult Family Home, however, there’s a lot of room for food flexibility. Vegetarian options are easy enough, as is organic (although it’s probably not necessary to go 100% organic) and even vegan might be manageable. A completely gluten-free diet is a bit harder to organize, but that too may be possible, depending on the level of care offered by your Adult Family Home.

Person-to-person care of each resident in an Adult Family Home

One Adult Family Home I visited some years ago, I met with the care giver of an elderly resident who suffered from dementia. The resident simply couldn’t remember the names of his own grandchildren. It’s a common problem, but it’s still hard for everyone, even if the nature of dementia is fully explained and understood. This particular care giver, right before the family was due to show up for the visit, went through all of the family photographs and reminded the resident of the name of each. He could hold on to that memory for about an hour, so it was plenty of time to be able to recall all family members’ names and make the day comfortable for everyone. That type of care giving is quite common in an Adult Family Home, but a little more challenging in a nursing home or anywhere there are more than a half dozen residents to become very familiar with.

Fewer residents means they, too, get to know each other more easily

When I was much younger, I was very happy to hang out in big crowds. I had lots of friends, was known by many, and knew many people. As I got older, however, the circle of people I wanted to be with shrank for sure. Today, I have a couple of very close friends, about a dozen or so ‘next level’ friends whom I stay in touch with but don’t stay in touch with as much, and that’s about it. I’ll forget for the moment the concept of ‘friends’ on social media platforms, and look only at the small number of people I really know. And that list gets shorter and shorter with time.

In an Adult Family Home, it’s less challenging to get to know those residents around you. That is, if you want that. And you can still keep to yourself if that’s your preference. In a nursing home, that’s tougher because it often feels more like a hotel.

More next week!