Q. I'm looking at long-term care alternatives for my mom. What are adult family homes and how are they different from assisted living or nursing home facilities?
A. Deciding where to move a loved one who is unable to live alone is not an easy decision! Fortunately, there are many options now from which you can choose. Adult family homes are private residential homes that are licensed to care for up to six residents. They provide room, board, laundry services, assistance with personal care and activities of daily living, necessary supervision, and social services. In some cases, nursing services are also available. Adult family homes differ from assisted living facilities, which have private apartments for residents and emphasize independence and personal choice. Although residents in assisted living facilities can obtain meals, personal care, and assistance with medication, such services are optional and are paid for separately rather than as part of a standard residential package. At the opposite end of the continuum are nursing homes, which provide 24-hour supervised nursing care, personal care, nutrition, and physical therapies in addition to room, board, laundry and various social services and organized activities. Thus, adult family homes offer an intermediate living alternative for persons who are not largely independent in their daily activities, but who do not really need the level of round-the-clock nursing care available in skilled nursing facilities. Which setting is right for your mom depends on how much and what kind of help and care she needs throughout the day. Many people like adult family homes because of their small size and homelike environment. They are often owned and operated by individuals who have personal experience in their own lives caring for a loved one who is aging or disabled. There is as much variability in appearance and layout as you would find among homes in your own neighborhood, and there are many to choose from, so is you are thinking about moving your mom into an adult family home, you and your mom should visit more than one. It's a good idea to ask for references from former residents and their family members. Since adult family homes are licensed by the state, you also have public access to information about any complaints that have been filed against a home. The Washington State Department of Social Services has a free brochure titled, "Guide to choosing care in an adult family home or boarding home." This brochure provides a checklist of things to consider when evaluating adult family homes, as well as information about how to find homes with vacancies in your area. For a copy, visit http://www.aasa.dshs.wa.gov/professional/afh/ or fax a request for publication #DSHS 22-707(X) to 360-664-0597. Taking time to make this important decision will help ensure that you choose the very best place for your mom to live when the time comes for her to make a move.