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Group home

September 18, 2011
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I’ve spent the last week looking for a new person to fill the fourth bedroom in my house – my group house. When I first moved to DC two years ago, this terminology confused me. While shopping at the farmers’ market with my aunt, we ran into a friend of hers who was full of advice. Oh, you’ll definitely want to live in a group house, she told me. This brought to mind some sort of sorority-style living situation, with a house mom who does the cooking, cleaning and wash. Not for me, I thought.

But when I started my housing search on craigslist, I f0und that in DC, group house was a common term for a house shared by several people. I still thought it was a little odd, but I adopted the term pretty quickly – after all, it’s easier to say I live in a group house than to explain that I share a rental house with several other people. And since the term is so widely used, everyone understands it and knows exactly what you’re talking about. Or so I thought.

When I was in the hospital last March, one of my nurses asked me at one point whether I lived alone. No, I told her, I live in a group house. She didn’t say much in response, and I didn’t have any idea I’d been misunderstood.

A few days later, an occupational therapist came to see me. In case anyone isn’t familiar with the purpose of occupational therapy, according to the Mayo Clinic, it “gives people the “skills for the job of living” that are needed for independent and satisfying lives.” After a short evaluation, the guy told me that I didn’t need him and didn’t know why he’d been called for my case. Again, I didn’t think much about it – by that point, I’d seen and answered questions for so many different people, I just assumed I was getting the regular treatment.

It wasn’t until a few days later when I was talking about my roommates to one of the more chatty nurses that we realized the misunderstanding. The day I had reported to live in a group house, my nurse showed up to the seven o’clock floor-wide report-out with alarming news. Patient 12A lives in a group home! (In case you don’t fully appreciate the distinction between the word choice in this instance (house vs. home), allow me to share an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on group homes: “homes designed for those in need of social assistance, and who are usually deemed incapable of living alone or without proper supervision.”)

Apparently, the next several minutes of the meeting were spent worrying about what to do with me when it was time for me to be discharged. Where would they send me? Would this place still have a spot for me when I was released from the hospital? Would I receive the necessary care/supervision there to fully and safely recover from surgery? Hence the occupational therapist.

I was horrified when we discovered the mix-up. What did they think I was in for? But we all had a good laugh about it, and I’m sure the hospital floor staff was enormously relieved to find that my case was much less complicated than they’d thought.

Still, in seeking a new housemate, I decided to be a little more careful in the wording of the ad I placed on craigslist.

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