What is life like for senior living in a nursing home or Adult Family Home in Seattle?

The short answer is – at least with respect to Adult Family Homes – it’s quite like living at home. It’s a little pricier to live in an Adult Family Home, but there are distinct advantages an Adult Family Home has over a nursing home. Top of my list is, the upper limit on number of residents in an Adult Family Home in the state of Washington. That limit is six, and for any business to claim to be such an organization, it can have no more that six individual residents in any one dwelling. Some Adult Family Homes have multiple dwellings, but each can only have six, even if there are couples in that residence.

Washington State’s limit of six residents in an Adult Family Home

To me, this is the central advantage because it does really make a house into a home. Here’s why:

  1. Bonding is much easier with the small number. With only six residents to care for, each employee of an Adult Family Home can get to know each resident personally. With only six individuals to get to know, the typical care taker – who is often a retired registered nurse – can quickly get up to speed on the uniqueness of each resident. Moments can truly matter in the middle of the night when a resident has an emergency. If a care giver knows from memory the individual medical condition of a resident, he or she can make decisions quickly. Is it diabetic shock? A registered nurse looking after those six residents is going to know in a second what to do. They don’t have to look up a chart, or wait for an ambulance to arrive, in order to solve the problem in an instant. And an instant can be an eternity for someone going into diabetic shock.

  2. Family-size group makes it more like a family. Hence that word Family in Adult Family Home. Aside from the advantage the staff has to give premium care to a small number of individuals, it’s also easier for 

  3. each resident to make friends and to bond with the other five residents. Can you imagine living in a nursing home with two hundred other residents you needed to get to know. It’s probably more like living in a hotel than a home. In fact, if you were living with two hundred other residents, it would make it harder to bond, not easier.

  4. Food requirements can be catered for. An old friend of mine has been a restaurant chef for thirty years. He said he could serve up fifty completely different meals over a few hours of time, and with ease. Now, imagine you only had to cook for six people. You can certainly provide unique meals for every individual, and especially because they are the same six people – more or less – every day. Likely, too, most of the residents will go along with the food that’s prepared, so it’s easy to look after the exception. My father, for example, had Type I diabetes for most of his life. That meant, he had to be very careful. Living in an Adult Family Home, actually, can be better than living on one’s own in such situations. Someone who is preparing food for another is not subject to the same temptation as someone who is preparing food for themselves.

  5. It’s quieter in an Adult Family Home. The older I get, the worse my hearing is, but hearing loss – I have discovered in my later years – is not that the volume of everything is lessened, necessarily. For me, at least, it is that certain frequencies are diminished. This means that other frequencies stand out more than others now, so certain types of noises are more irritating than ever. The deep, growling sound of a big engine starting up will wake my up quickly, whereas the higher pitch of birds chirping does not wake me up as it used to when I was younger. In a word, noise levels are far more of an issue for seniors than they are for younger individuals. Because an Adult Family Home can have a maximum of six residents, there is simply less noise. On the rare occasion that an ‘event’ occurs, it’s exactly that: rare.

  6. Live in a house, not a building. For most of us, we’ve spent most of our lives in a single family dwelling. It might be a house, a condo or an apartment, but it’s constructed to perform as a home, not a building. The typical nursing home, however, is constructed to serve the economies of scale of perhaps several hundred people. It might be comfortable in many respects, but it’s still built for efficiency and process. That efficiency might fly in the face of personal, individual needs.

  7. It’s also about a feeling of security. Often, when that midnight emergency occurs, the thoughts and feelings around the potential problem are more scary than the issue itself. If you are feeling a pain in your chest at 2AM, it’s a relaxing feeling to know that someone down the corridor knows your medical condition pretty well. If you’re not in a position to speak to the help at your side, it’s nice to know they already know what to do. If, on the other hand, you’re feeling dizzy and have a pain in your chest, but you never before met the nurse who just showed up, the extra anxiety can exacerbate an already difficult situation. So, personally knowing care is going to be optimal in an emergency will keep each resident relaxed enough to stay at their best.

Check in next week!