Group homes for the disabled are an option for individuals who would otherwise require institutional care. Many families and caregivers cannot care for a loved one in their own home, usually because the required care needs to be performed by nurses or doctors or individuals who are otherwise trained for specialized care. Others may have an individual placed in an institution because they have to work and cannot care for someone who needs round-the-clock care. Some states in the U.S. are cutting costs by closing down government run institutions, which is forcing families to find new ways to care for disabled family members.
What are Group Homes
Group homes may be private, nonprofit facilities or run by local governments. Privately run group homes do not have government oversight unless they receive funding from the government. A nonprofit or government run facility will adhere to certain rules and regulations, which may determine to whom they may provide services.
A group home will provide housing and meals, and may provide other activities to residents, such as field trips, sports activities, and transportation services to medical appointments, shopping and entertainment activities. Each facility is different, depending upon state and local regulations, and the options available will vary.
Group Home Residents
Group homes serve a wide variety of individuals, but many of these residences cater to a particular group of individuals, such as disabled adults, teenagers or children. The care and oversight of the residents is dependent upon the age of the residents, their health needs and the activities they may be doing. For this reason, caregivers or individuals seeking care need to do some research into a group home before committing to living in a particular one.
Some families believe that a group home setting, as opposed to an institution, provides a community feeling that is absent in other types of facilities. They have reported that their loved ones (who previously lived in an institution) seem more alert and engaged, have regained skills that they may have lost while in institutions (such as feeding and toileting themselves), and appear healthier overall.
Tips for Choosing a Residence Home
Choosing a group home for a disabled person is a big responsibility, and many people are understandably concerned about selecting the right one. There are many things to consider, and there are potential problems, such as negligence and abuse, to be very concerned about. It is important for caregivers to sit down and speak with an administrator at length about your expectations and needs before committing to a facility. Do not be rushed through the interview, and make sure all of your questions have been answered to your satisfaction. Should you have further questions, the administrator should welcome them and not be agitated. If they seem unable to answer your questions or are irritated by them, look for another facility that is more open to your inquiries and concerns.
The following are things to look for when choosing a group home for a family member:
- Is the facility clean and odorless? Look at the furniture in the entry to the building and ask to inspect a resident room. Does the facility smell clean, or does it smell musty or like urine? Does the furniture look clean and gently used or does it have dirty spots and rough edges?
- Do the current residents look (and smell) clean and well groomed?
- Are the support areas (kitchen, laundry, bathrooms, guest rooms) clean and organized?
- How are health concerns handled? Are there individuals on-site to care for special needs individuals around the clock? Who will administer medicine and attend to urgent medical needs?
- How do residents interact with family and loved ones? Are they encouraged to keep in contact? Who assists the residents in keeping in contact, and how will they accomplish this (i.e. TTY, letters, Skype)?
- How are the employees selected for hire? Are they checked for criminal records prior to employment? What is the facility’s policy of hiring someone to work in any capacity if they have a criminal record?
- For employees who are interacting with residents, what type of training have they received, and how long was the training?
- What activities can be expected to occur, and how often are the activities done?
- Do the employees seem engaged with the residents, or are most of the residents alone?
Visiting a group home should occur more than once when you are in the selection process, and preferably at least once unannounced. This should give you a good idea of what things are like during their day-to-day operation, especially if your visit is unannounced. Once you have chosen a facility, it is important to visit it as frequently as possible so that you may spot potential problems or abuses.
To find out more about group homes, resident homes or nursing homes for the disabled, contact the following organizations in your state or locality:
- State Department of Health and Human Services
- Division of Developmental Disabilities
- State Human Rights Committee
- Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (New York)