Group homes offer individualized care

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Rebekah Sewell

When Olney resident Jimmy Schrider suffered a stroke last year, his wife Barbara, 80, realized he would need extra care to maintain his quality of life. She felt that full-time homecare services would be too costly, and that larger assisted living communities didn’t seem to be the right choice for them, either.

A social worker at her husband’s rehabilitation facility suggested nearby Brookeville House in Brookeville, Md. The couple has lived there ever since.

Family-like care

Brookeville House is a group assisted living home — sometimes called  residential adult family homes, board and care homes, or personal care homes — for older adults who require assistance with various aspects of daily life, such as dressing, eating, bathing, toileting and the like.

This kind of care — in a setting where two to 10 residents live with one or more round-the-clock caregivers — has been seeing increasing popularity, due to the homes’ capacity for more individualized, and potentially more comfortable, care.

Residents of a group home live together in a private house, which has been built or renovated to meet their needs. Since the atmosphere is intimate, residents often become like families, which can keep them from feeling lonely or isolated.

“They’ve become like kinfolk,” Barbara Schrider said of  the people she’s met there. She even regularly spends time nurturing others.

Since she’s still independent, Barbara often helps the staff with daily tasks like setting up tables for events and doing her friends’ hair. “I do everything like I would at home,” she said.

Evelyn and George Pappas established Brookeville House to fulfill a need when they couldn’t find the right home for their own relatives, given their financial requirements and preference to avoid the institutional setting of a larger community. “I thought, ‘I can do better. I have to do better,’” Evelyn said.

Group homes in general are enjoying growing popularity, and successful owners are opening several communities just to meet the demand. Pappas currently has two properties under the Brookeville House name, with a third expected to open in February.

Since the Schriders moved to Brookeville House, her husband Jimmy has received daily help with dressing, washing and occasional walking assistance from the staff.

His mood and personality have improved dramatically. “It’s like he’s a new person,” Barbara said. “He talks to people. He does activities. Some people [when moved out of their home] go senile. Jimmy’s been my husband for 55 years. I just couldn’t let him go like that.”

As in larger assisted living communities, group homes provide varying levels of care — ranging from hands-on personal care to skilled nursing to memory care. Different homes have different focuses or specialties (such as Alzheimer’s care or kosher or ethnic diets). 

The staff at Brookeville House features a nurse for monthly visits, licensed certified or geriatric nursing assistants, and an in-home physical therapist, podiatrist, and other specialists as needed. It also specializes in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Care ranges from $3,995 (shared room and bath) to $5,995 (private room and bath) per month.

A luxury option

Another home in Maryland took a different approach to fit its clients’ needs. Last year, Capital City Nurses founded the Cottage at Curry Manor to serve up to eight residents in a luxurious  custom-built mansion on a gated estate in Bethesda, Md.

Residents enjoy highly individualized care, with a near one-to-one ratio of staff to residents during the day. Currently, residents require physical, but not cognitive, daily assistance.

Most care is delivered by certified nursing assistants and medication technicians, assisted by managers and overseen by Susan Rogers, RN, founder and CEO of Capital City Nurses.

The Cottage’s high-end approach to assisted living is unique for a group home in this area, with extra large suites, walk-in closets, massage and fitness rooms, and a beauty salon on the premises.

Care at the Cottage at Curry Manor ranges from $9,500 to $12,000 per month.

In Northern Virginia

Andi Cosito operates two residential assisted living homes, called Tysons Woods, located in Vienna, Va. She founded the communities with the memory of her aunt’s elder care center in mind.

“I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by older people from a young age. I benefited from their warmth, affection and experience,” she said on her website.

Janet Wolfe, 91, has lived at Tysons Woods for almost two years. She made the move to be closer to her daughter, who lives in Northern Virginia.

Wolfe enjoys the special “pampering” touches offered by the female staff, and their assistance to make it feel like home. “They just take over whatever needs to be done...There is always someone to come to your rescue,” Wolfe said.

Both Tysons Woods properties feature eight bedrooms for long-term assisted living and end-of-life care. Residents have access to all-inclusive care, ranging from housekeeping and laundry to activities, physical therapy, transportation and medication management.

As at most group homes, meals are provided by culinary staff who accommodate residents’ dietary needs. Guests typically eat together and socialize during meals. All-inclusive care at Tysons Woods costs $6,500 per month.

Pros and cons to consider

One of the major benefits of a group home assisted living community is the flexibility it offers. Owners and managers often cater their services to the current residents and their situations.

For example, in a larger, more institutional, community, the Schriders would likely have been separated because they require different levels of care. In a group home, residents can also perform daily tasks like laundry and cooking themselves, with “standby” assistance, as long as it’s safe.

Group homes also offer a more tailored approach, with a higher staff-to-resident ratio. As a result, the schedule of events and daily life are often less regimented. In a larger community, “everyone is on a tight schedule to get things done,” according to Pappas.

There are disadvantages to be aware of as well, though, according to David Besnette of the Assisted Living Directory Blog. Concerns he raises include the following:

• Small, residential homes can be self-financed, without a lot of “cushion” for lean times.

• Local Homeowners Associations might change their mind about having a care facility in their neighborhood.

• The home may not be equipped to transition a resident to more involved or skilled care.

• Staff may burn out and turn over quickly.

For more on his concerns, see

Owners who open a group home must apply for and pass certification through the state, and are subject to yearly certification. Contact your local office on aging for information about particular group homes and their licensure.

For more information:

• Brookeville House, (301) 957-0752,

• The Cottage at Curry Manor, (301) 365-2582,

• Tysons Woods, (703) 846-0395,