The perfect group homes for mentally disabled adults are ones where each adult resident takes as much responsibility for everyday decisions as he or she is capable of. We are talking about adults, who need self-respect and to responsible for themselves. This is the twenty first century and care systems have moved on.

If you were starting a group home for mentally disabled adults, how would you organize it? If it was your brother who needed residential care for his whole life, how would you want it run to give him self-respect and happiness?

People are in this position every day. As relatives pass out of the childcare system, they need to find a suitable long-term home, one that is affordable, close enough to visit and where he will be stimulated as much as possible.

An increasing number of homes for intellectually disabled adults are being set up in community settings, run as charities. There may be two or three small homes, each with one or two resident carers, whose job is to provide support where it is needed.

The mentally disabled residents are welcomed into the wider community. They perform useful jobs, sometimes part-time and sometimes with support and are made to feel useful in that they have a job.

In rural locations this works well, where residents can find jobs that they are capable of doing satisfactorily. Sometimes the homes are run as a kind of commune, with residents helping to raise chickens and grow vegetables. Excess produce is sold to pay for essentials that need to be bought from outside suppliers.

There may be cottage industries where residents work at seasonal jobs such as making Christmas wreaths for sale or planting hyacinths in bowls, which are sold as the bulbs come into flower. Sometimes residents in group homes for the intellectually disabled will do contract work such as putting samples into envelopes for a large mailing or putting chocolates into boxes.

Questions to Ask A Manager of a Group Home for the Mentally Disabled

These questions are designed to help you make a judgement about the facilities at t he home. None of us have been in one, so questions do not spring easily to mind. The ideal answer is in italics after each question.

  • Will my brother have his own bedroom? Yes
  • Will he have his own clothes? Of course
  • If he shares a room, how many is it with? One
  • Are there male and female residents in the same house? No
  • Do male and female residents mix with each other during the day? Yes
  • What time will he get up in the morning? When he wants to within reason, usually between 6 and 8 am
  • What time will he go to bed? When he wants to within reason, usually between 9 and 11 pm
  • Is there always a carer on the premises, within shouting distance? Yes
  • Will he have a choice at mealtimes? Within reason, certainly at breakfast and for snacks
  • Will he have a job he gets paid for? Yes, but the "wages" are nominal
  • Will my brother have money of his own to spend from his job? Yes, but not very much
  • Will he have social and work contact with non-residents of the home? Yes in a structured and limited way
  • What will he do in the home when he is not at his job? Odd jobs around the house, gardening, what he wants within reason
  • How do you prevent bullying? We take special care of the more vulnerable residents and they will not ever be left alone in a group of potentially aggressive residents
  • Will I be able to take him out for the day or to come and visit him? Of course, with or without an appointment
  • Will you keep me informed as to his daily routine and any planned outings? Of course, though occasionally an unexpected opportunity will come up and we will take him out without telling you in advance, though we will let you know afterwards
  • What happens when he is ill? He will be encouraged to stay in his room, but allowed to mix with the other residents if he wants to
  • What happens if his intellectual facilities diminish further? He will be welcome here as long as we can care for him safely
  • What happens if he suffers from senile dementia when he is older? We will appoint an extra carer to the home to ensure there are always at least two carers available during the day

The answers shown are the ones you should be looking for. Use your experience to make a judgement as to the honesty of the person you are dealing with. If you distrust their answers then walk away, because you need to be confident that your brother is going to be well cared for the next 60 years.

Keep in regular contact with the management of the group home where your mentally disabled brother is resident. Watch for changes of management style, or a change of ownership.

Clues to when something is going on behind the scenes (possible conclusions in italics after each point)

  • Residents always in slippers-The mentally disabled residents never step out of the door
  • Television on loud and residents sitting around it-A general lack of stimulation and interesting activities
  • Residents wearing thick jumpers and cardigans-A lack of physical activity OR heating on too low
  • Residents very thin-Not enough food
  • Residents have no false teeth in-The carers have got them all mixed up
  • No residents are wearing glasses-Carers have mixed up the glasses
  • Residents are lethargic, even when a visitor appears-They are doped up to the eyeballs
  • You are never left alone with your brother or sister-The home has something to hide

If you have concerns raise them with the local health authorities.

Remove your relative if your concerns are not allayed satisfactorily and find a new group home for the mentally disabled. There are others, they just might be less convenient. Better that than having suspicions that your intellectually disabled brother or sister is not being cared for adequately.