Cheryl got injured, Lori wasn’t sure what to do. Her sister, who has cerebral
palsy and mild developmental disability, had been living on her own with just
an aide coming in a few times a week. The situation had been working well, but then
Cheryl fell and ended up with broken ribs. And suddenly her needs were too
great. She needed more support.
knew she couldn’t take Cheryl in herself. As the primary earner of her
household, she simply wouldn’t be able to dedicate herself to Cheryl as much as
she needed. So Lori started looking at group homes for her sister. But then she
came across an option she hadn’t even known about before: host homes.
homes (also known as life sharing or shared living) are a unique living
arrangement where an individual or family in the community opens their home to
a person with disabilities. And they come with a whole host of benefits for
people with disabilities and their families.
always said a person’s biggest disability can be their family,” says Lori. And
she’s got a point. It’s natural for loving, caring family members to want to do
as much as they can for their disabled loved one. But sometimes, that
well-meaning help can prevent people with disabilities from learning new skills
and trying things that could lead to greater independence. Moving into a new
home with new people gives a disabled person a fresh start with new chances to
learn, grow, and experience the world.
has seen the difference in Cheryl since she moved into her host home too.
“She’s blossomed in a different way,” she says.
first, Lori felt guilty about having Cheryl live in a host home; up until
Cheryl’s fall, the sisters had been living within 10 minutes of each other, but
the host home was farther away than what they were used to. But Lori soon came
to realize her concerns were unfounded. “She’s in a place where she’s got
constant care and people to watch over her,” she says. “And even if I can’t get
there as quickly as I used to be able to, it’s okay—because there’s someone
else there I trust.”
host home family gets paid for looking after her, but to Lori, it’s clear
they’re not just in it for the money. “They include Cheryl in everything they
do,” she says. That includes things like church and vacations (even though this
year the vacations were smaller, COVID-friendly affairs).
even if all they’re doing is hanging out watching TV, Lori is glad Cheryl’s not
alone. “I think she was lonely in her own apartment and didn’t even realize
it,” Lori says. “I think she’s happier now.”
feels the love too. A few months after moving in, Lori asked Cheryl how it was
going—was Cheryl still feeling okay even though Lori wasn’t as close as she
used to be?
answer from Cheryl was a resounding YES. “This is my second family,” she told
is so much above and beyond what I would have expected someone to do,” says
Lori. “They took Cheryl into their hearts and into their home and they include
about a host home arrangement for your loved one?
has some advice.
- Do your research, both with the agency you partner with and the host home family. Lori met people from multiple agencies before choosing Bethesda, and she interviewed several families before finding the right fit for Cheryl.
- It’s normal to feel a little guilty, but remember this is the right thing for your loved one. “They get more personal care, and they get friendship,” she says.
- Talk to someone who’s been through it before. “I didn’t know anyone who had a family member in a host home program,” says Lori. “But talking to someone who can explain what it is and why they chose it could really put your mind at ease.”