By Jenny Austin-Krzemien Certified Concierge Care Advisor

I have worked with many families who insisted that their loved one needed to move into assisted living even though they needed around the clock care. And on the other hand, I have worked with families who thought their loved one needed to be in an adult family home, but they were very independent.

Both assisted living and adult family homes offer care to their residents, but that is where the similarities end. Depending on the person and their needs, either option is a safe option.

The first assisted living community was in Portland and opened in 1981. It offered individual apartments that locked, 24-hour medical staff for emergencies, and common places for congregating and eating. According to the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCANCAL), there are currently nearly 30,000 assisted living facilities in the United States with the average size of 33 beds. There are more than 800,000 Americans living in assisted living today, according to AHCANCAL.

Typical services offered in an assisted living facility include transportation, housekeeping, daily meals, activities, wellness programs, medication management, assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), and 24-hour supervision. Residents often only need help with just a few ADLs and do not require 24-hour skilled nursing care. After a median stay of 22 months, most residents move onto a higher level of care such as skilled nursing or into an adult family home.

The state of Washington began licensing adult family homes around 1989. Adult family homes are also known as adult care homes or adult foster homes. These are residential homes with space for up to six residents. Typically, the ratio of caregivers to resident is one to six, but most homes always have two caregivers on duty. Some homes are owned by RNs, LPNs or CNAs. This type of long-term care option is one of the best settings for residents who need a lot of care to age safely in. I spoke to a friend of mine yesterday who is considering moving her husband’s grandfather into their own home to care for him around the clock. I asked her why she was going to do that, and she said, ‘the only other option is a nursing home.’ I spoke to her about adult family homes, and she had no idea that was an option. The monthly cost at a home is comparable to assisted living, and much less than a nursing home, some of which charge more than $300 a day.

So, to summarize, assisted living communities are a great option for a senior who needs a little bit of assistance and who still likes to socialize. Adult family homes are appropriate for a senior who needs much more care in a smaller setting.