Shared Living is one of the most effective and cost-efficient options for providing people who need assistance with daily living with quality care and the experience of a good life filled with friends and community. Research has recently started to emerge that demonstrates just how valuable this kind of social inclusion is for both individuals experiencing disabilities and their communities – and it’s quite compelling.
Shared Living takes a “shared life” approach to providing supports. The Shared Living provider or provider family serve as paid caregivers, and share their home with a person who needs assistance with daily living. Control and responsibility of the home belongs to the caregiver, but an essential element of the relationship is that the person being supported feels like it is their home as well. Respecting the home provider’s routines and rituals, and being asked to make their own contributions, are important parts of the philosophy behind the Shared Living approach.
To create successful matches between individuals and Shared Living providers, Community Bridges follows a person-centered strategy that allows us to take the time and effort to discover the gifts, preferences, and personality traits each person has to offer. We then undertake a thorough screening process to identify a Shared Living provider who shares and/or can enhance those qualities. But the relationship doesn’t stop there. The Shared Living provider must also be committed to sharing their community connections, and be willing to encourage others to join them in fostering natural relationships of interdependence and hospitality. Becoming part of the Shared Living provider’s network of family, friends, and acquaintances helps the individual build a life of engagement and self determination.
Shared Living arrangements are usually designed to provide support for one individual. Does this place that person at a greater risk of loneliness? Is it better to live in group arrangements so that people with disabilities can socialize with one another more often? Data collected and analyzed by the National Core Indicators project gives us a view into the common, personal experiences of those supported by service systems, and insight into what is and is not working (www.nationalcoreindicators.org). Information collected from 35 states from 2010-2011 includes findings on how people reported their experience of “loneliness.” Surprising to some, the findings indicated that people actually experienced more loneliness in a group setting than in an individual home. People living in institutional settings, when asked if they felt lonely, answered “yes” or “sometimes” 44% of the time. This only dropped to 43% if they lived in group homes. However, for those in Shared Living homes, feelings of loneliness dropped to 36%. The study does not report what the rate of loneliness is for the general population, and any level of loneliness is reason for concern. But these results are significant, given the extensive sample size and the reported “paradoxical” phenomenon of feeling “lonely in a crowd.”
At Community Bridges, we are committed to sharing and championing the success of Shared Living programs. We have heard wonderful stories of community inclusion and have seen first-hand how lives have been fulfilled through this program. It is an effective and cost-efficient service system that reduces loneliness and encourages inclusion – all of which are at the heart of the change we seek through our work at Community Bridges. For more information on the Shared Living program at Community Bridges, visit www.communitybridgesnh.org or call us at 603-225-4153.