Public policy and welfare officials struggle to find facilities for elderly citizens who want to live somewhat independently but need some measure of assisted living care. Group homes for the elderly provide an option which offers a cost-effective solution to this dilemma. Group homes don’t meet the needs of all elderly citizens, but they can offer many older citizens a positive living experience in a caring and supportive environment. Starting a group home for the elderly requires knowledge of local laws and regulations and a detailed plan for starting such an enterprise.
1) Investigate your state’s Office on Aging regulations for senior-citizen group homes. Regulations differ from state to state. Stipulations regarding the physical layout of the group home include expectations that the facility provide free and easy access to all areas of the house and that safety features such as rails, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, emergency call buttons and fire extinguishers exist throughout the house.
2) Plan how the group home will function on a day-to-day basis. Will the residents take total responsibility for the functioning of the group home, or will staff assist the residents? How much daily living assistance can staff give? How will chores be divided in the home? Should residents sign an agreement before moving into the group home, or will residents make decisions at periodic home meetings? How can the costs of running the group home be divided fairly among the residents? A group home which provides extensive assisted-living care will cost more for the residents, so settle these decisions before the group home opens and make sure that potential residents know exactly what the group home will and will not offer.
3) Find a residence to serve as the group home. Consider locale–a group home for elderly citizens should have accessibility to shopping centers, religious institutions (if needed), medical facilities and community centers. Take into account the availability of public transportation services, or include some kind of group home transportation service as part of what’s available for the group home residents.
4) Arrange the group home’s interior. Every resident should have his or her own bedroom with a shared bathroom for every three or four residents. A ranch home without stairs offers the easiest options for all residents’ mobility.
5) Obtain fire, theft and liability insurance for the group home. Obtain malpractice insurance if any medical care will take place on the group home premises
6) Hire the staff for the group home. If any medical care will take place on the group home’s premises, insure that all applicants for medical roles hold state certification for their professions. Each state’s Department of Health licensing bureau holds responsibility for granting these certifications. Verify the licenses of any candidates who apply to work in any medical capacity at the group home for the elderly. Determine which other staff members need to hold state licensing (this requirement varies from state to state). Check this information through the state’s Department of Social Services/Department or Human Services/Department of Human Resources (DSS). Depending on the level of assistance available to residents at the group home, staff positions may include people to help clean the group home, assist residents who need help with daily living tasks, aid in maintaining the kitchen and provide transportation for the group home’s elderly residents to medical and cultural activities. Even if the group home will not include medical care, qualified personnel must be on hand to oversee residents’ medications.
7) Obtain CPR and first aid certification for all staff members.
8) Obtain all zoning permits for the group home from the local municipality or county.
9) Register the group home with the Social Security Administration and Medicaid. This grants the group home eligibility to accept residents through Medicaid and Supplemental Social Security benefits. Medicaid and SSI refer eligible clients to group homes for the elderly which hold state licenses. List the group home with insurance companies. Insurance companies rely on SSI and Medicaid approval of group homes when referring clients to a facility.
10) Set up administrative and financial accounting procedures for the group home. Prepare to charge monthly rent, either directly to the residents or to their families, insurance companies or governmental agencies which pay for residents’ care. Register the group home with the state Treasury Department for state taxes and the IRS for federal tax purposes. Obtain an EIN (Employee Identification Number) from the IRS for each employee of the group home.
11) Advertise to attract residents to the group home. Hang up fliers in churches, community centers, doctor’s offices, rehabilitation centers and other locations where potential clients and their families may see them. Place advertisements in community newspapers.