Housing options for special needs adults have come a long way in recent years. If you are the legal guardian of a special needs adult and you’re just now looking at your options, you are fortunate to have avoided some not so wonderful options from years past.

There was a time when many special needs adults were put in institutions with little-to-no therapy or socialization. Some might even argue that the care in those institutions bordered on negligence. There certainly wasn’t much provided in the form of assistance or counseling.

Fortunately, more modern thinking, advocacy efforts and changing laws have led to some major changes for the better. In fact, the US Supreme Court ruled on the matter in 1999 when it determined that people with special needs receiving government benefits must be provided with the least restrictive possible housing.

The Court cited the “integration mandate” of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This mandate requires public agencies to provide services “in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities.”

The Court upheld that mandate in the 1999 decision, ruling that the department of human resources of the state of Georgia could not segregate two patients with mental disabilities in a state-run psychiatric hospital.

Long after the agency’s treatment professionals had recommended the transfer of those two patients to community care, the patients were being segregated. The Supreme Court decision ended this practice and opened the doors to a flood of much-needed improvements in housing options for special needs adults.

As a result, guardians of special needs adults now have multiple options when finding suitable housing for their loved ones. Some facilities are very modern in design and amenities, with a supportive group structure, in-house counselors and therapists, and modern assistance equipment.

Some settings are much more basic, such as government-funded section 8 housing or older group home facilities.

Depending on your financial resources, you may have many options or only a few. In this post, we will look at the many options to help you decide what might be best for your situation.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

Skilled nursing homes, more commonly referred to as nursing homes, are an obvious choice for individuals who require care around the clock. However, nursing homes are typically the last choice for families for many reasons. For one, they are costly. For another, they often can lack some of the homeier qualities and assistance amenities available with other options.

Sometimes, however, a skilled nursing home may be the best option for the special needs individual, particularly when the individual has severe and/or life-threatening needs.

If you have a dependent who may need the full-time, around the clock care of a nursing facility, Medicaid might be a payment solution.

Group Homes

Group homes are an increasingly popular choice for special needs individuals for many reasons. They often provide a home-like setting, built-in social opportunities and several other conveniences and amenities.

Depending on the program, group homes might have in-house therapy workers, counselors and volunteers. They typically include a range of assistance equipment to help foster a high quality of life for the residents. In other cases, the group home might be more spare and have no in-house professionals.

Group homes also vary in other ways, such as overall quality, size and how they are paid for. In certain cases, payment might be made by the individual’s guardian or through a special needs trust. (We will discuss this in a little more detail in a moment.) In other cases, payment might be made with state funds.

Group homes can be a great option for people with special needs when they don’t require 24/7 advanced care but still are not able to live independently.

Assisted Living Facilities

Some individuals with special needs, especially elderly individuals, may choose to live in assisted living facilities. These are facilities that house residents in their own apartments within a building or complex of buildings, that may have on-site nursing care.

The units are often set up as an apartment, with a kitchen and other household equipment. They typically include communal areas for socializing, dining and educational opportunities.

The quality of the facilities and on-site care can vary greatly from one facility to another, as can the costs.

Section 8 Housing

The Section 8 housing program is not an option most people would choose for their special needs dependent but sometimes, it may be the only option. The program supplies rent payment vouchers to low-income individuals. The individual must pay approximately a third of their monthly income toward the rent owed, using the voucher for the remaining third.

Section 8 vouchers can allow individuals who have mild or moderate special needs and a low monthly income to live independently. On the downside, however, it can take years to obtain a Section 8 voucher and find an available Section 8 unit.

Special Needs Trust

Special needs trusts can own homes for beneficiaries or pay for a beneficiary’s rent. I often recommend a special needs trust as a way to allow special needs dependents to receive government benefits without a negative financial impact on the guardian.

In the case of housing, a special needs trust can be a smart and flexible option for the beneficiary. This is because it allows the trust to pay for services to help the beneficiary live independently, including paying rent or even owning the individual’s home.

Also, a special needs trust helps prevent any possible Medicaid recoupment from the guardian because the trust and not the guardian or the beneficiary control the money.

I Can Help

If you’d like to meet with me to discuss housing options for a special needs adult, please contact me to schedule a free consultation. Together, we can look at the best options for you and your loved one, and take appropriate next steps.