Choosing a Nursing Home or Group Home – Part II

Two Part Series – Choosing a “Nursing Home” or “Group Home”

Part II – Choosing a “Group Home” for Alzheimer’s – Dementia Patient

To find all the “Group Homes” in your area may require more than the yellow pages in the phone book, as I did for Nursing Homes. When I was searching for a Group Home for my Mom,  I also searched the internet, entering my own state and city. I called Elder Care facilities listed in the government pages of the phone book along with the Alzheimer’s Association Chapter in my community.

It may be an unusual source, but I learned of several “Group Homes” in my own neighborhood from my regular USPS Mail Man. He often chatted with my mom while she swept the front porch and he delivered our mail, then he asked about her when the mesquite pods stacked up after Mom moved to the Group Home. Mom is only a half mile from my house, but the mailman said I could have done much better. Surprisingly, he gave me addresses of 3 Group Homes within walking distance of my home. I hadn’t found a single one of these three Group Homes during my numerous searches through the phone books or internet.

Later, I learned that a one year waiting list is considered standard for any of these three Group Homes. Since they seldom solicit new residents, there existence goes under the radar. So check in your neighborhood; ask your mailman, milkman, neighborhood-watch person. The vacancies in a good Group Home go quickly.

What I liked about the Group Home versus the regular Nursing Home was the low population and high ratio of staff to resident. Counting Mom, there were only 9 residents, each with their own room and some with attached bath. The Manager (a registered nurse stayed at the facility all day.) Besides the manager, during the day there were 3 staff members that took care of patient needs only. 2 Staff members who worked in the kitchen, but also tended to patient needs between scheduled meal-times. There was one male staff member who tended the Landscape, Shop, Service area (Accepting shipments of medical equipment, oxygen, etc.). He was also an all-around handy-man. If we needed a nail in a wall for a brand new framed photo, or a heavy dresser moved from one place to another, we called him.

I loved the dynamics of this group. They were family to Mom, and to Me.

Though they each had assigned duties, they could swap tasks easily and often did.  The manager had managed Group Homes for many years before she purchased this Home. Soon after the purchase she re-modeled, adding her own specific requirements to every detail. I must admit, it was ideal. I feel very fortunate to have found this particular Group Home.

If you’re searching for a Group Home, many of the same questions you’d ask of a Nursing Home would also apply to a Group Home.

Do they accept Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients? What are their fees? How many patients do they have at any given time, and how many staff members? Is there a physician available at all times, or easily reached by phone? Are there safety lock-down procedures for the Dementia patient who wanders? Do patients have full assistance with hygiene? Do they offer Day Care? What hours are visitors allowed?

 

As with a Nursing Home, a walk-through examination of a Group Home will give you a view of the residents and the dynamics of the home. Are patients freely walking around? Do they appear sedated or groggy?

At one point my Mom had to be sedated slightly due to crying spells and begging to “go home,” a fairly common occurrence for some Alzheimer’s patients when “home” represents their “childhood home” and their own Mother. After notifying Mom’s physician of her worsening depression, he wrote a prescription. When I gave it to the manager, she objected that the dosage was too strong for Mom’s needs and would keep her sleeping all the time. The manager phoned the physician and had the dosage reduced and mother recovered from that spell of depression while she remained an active member of the Group Home family.I don’t believe I would have found such “individualized” treatment or concern in a conventional nursing home.

Activities of a Group Home:

These are just some of the activities that happened at Mom’s Group Home. It may give you some ideas about what to ask and what to look for in a nice, busy, and happy Group Home.

  • Since all the residents of the Group Home  where Mom stayed were female, it did offer some distinct benefits. A beautician visited once a month and if I wasn’t busy, I always visited at least part of this day for the sheer fun of it. The ladies giggled and laughed and took turns in the chair, getting new hair styles, colors, and perms. It was always a playful and enjoyable day for most, all but the bedridden, of these elderly women. Throughout the day they giggled like teenagers at a slumber party.
  • School children visited once a month and each spent time with their favorite resident.
  • A local band came every Thursday and took requests from the ladies, playing songs from their era as they sang along.
  • Their all-time favorite activity, though it did spur arguments, was to fold the linen while it was till warm from the dryer. When it was folding time, they all gathered in their assigned chairs in the large family room.  These women could hardly sit still until the laundry baskets arrived and the constant bickering began, “It’s my turn for wash rags today,” “Oh no, it’s my turn. It was your turn yesterday.” “No, I haven’t had washrags in a week. It’s my turn.” “I want bath towels. They’re warm!” and on it goes until the laundry arrives.
  • This Group Home had a wall-sized television in the family room but you seldom saw the patients in front of it unless it was the (quiet time) right before bedtime.
  • Each patient had an assigned recliner, which had a parking space for their wheelchair or rolling-walker right beside it. These women were enthusiastic about decorating their space; their chairs, their walkers, the bedroom doors. Name tags hung by colorful ribbons on each door, walker, wheelchair or recliner. Especially for the purpose of remembering names, sometimes their own, though most of the time names weren’t very important anyway. –I do remember one elderly Alzheimer’s Patient who told everyone who visited,  “I don’t really live here, I just come here for my vacations because it’s so much fun.” I thought that was quite appropriate.

I suppose my best description of the Group Home where my Mom spent the last 2 years of her life would be “Homey.” It was “homey” for Mom and for me. They loved my Mom and took good care of her.

Wherever you decide to call “home” for your loved one, I hope you have as wonderful an experience as I had with the Group Home I chose.

PART I of this SERIES can be found here —>Choosing a Nursing Home Part I 

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Comments

  1. says

    This article is very intriguing but I wonder how widespread these group homes are because I am diagnosed and have a lot of contact with other diagnosed people and the Alzheimer’s Association and have never heard them mentioned. It is absolutely the model I would chose for myself, now to see if there are any in my area.

    • ~ Sandy says

      John,
      I had no idea such “homes” existed either. I was talking to my mailman one day as he’d noticed that Mom no longer greeted him at the door since her behavior had deteriorated. We were discussing nursing homes and he suggested a “Group Home.” There were 5/6 Group Homes on his mail route, and he said the residents always seemed very happy.

      I began a search on the internet for my area and there were lots and lots of them. They just don’t seem to get the publicity of a regular nursing home.

      The best thing I noticed after Mom was admitted; the Manager/Nurse asked for the phone number of Mom’s physician. She wanted Mom’s psychotic meds reduced. She stated that She did not like “her” people sleeping all the time!. They had a set routine, day in and day out, and they became accustom to it. Mom’s life was comfortable, peaceful and fun with few surprises or interruptions to confuse her.

      A dietitian in her younger days, Mom thought she supervised the kitchen and took great pride in the menus, service and table settings at every meal.

      My only worrisome day during the 1+ years she stayed there was the single time she got lost. We hunted the entire property, a huge back yard with covered trails and every cactus and flower indigenous to the area. There were comfortable lawn chairs, chaise lounges, and solid benches for long visits. But we could not find Mom. The only gate to leave the lawn area was still bolted. Inside, the front door was always bolted and only opened when someone rang on the outside.

      After worrisome minutes, my mother heard our calls and rounded a storage building butted against the back wall. She’d found a small patch of fresh dirt behind the building and had been filling flower pots for her room.

      Now, I laugh when reminded of this incident, but at the time I was so worried.

      Thank you for bringing back that sweet memory of her last year,
      ~Sandy

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