Will dementia prevent my father from living in an Adult Family Home in Bothell?

It’s probably worth asking each individual Adult Family Home you are considering that direct question but it is very likely the answer will be yes. One of the central ideas and offerings behind an Adult Family Home is their ability to truly individualize their care for each resident.

In Washington State, for a business to offer its services as an Adult Family Home, they must adhere to the limit of no more than six senior residents of any one given Adult Family Home property. Two homes can be side by side on the same street, but each must in its own right be a complete residence, and each with its respective limit of six residents. So, what does all this mean? With just six residents to look after, the care giver staff will quickly be able to learn and under stand the needs of each of the residents with their care. And most Adult Family Homes understand that their compelling offer – in contrast to, say a nursing home – is their ability to get to know each resident as if they were a family member. Hence the word family in Adult Family Home.

When a resident forgets, a care giver remembers

With just six residents, there is an opportunity for each resident to be very familiar to each of the care giver staff. Every dementia patient is unique. Three is no one formula a care giver can employ to handle all situations, so it simply takes time and focus to learn how to help an individual. Some will have excellent long term memory, good short term memory, but poor medium term memory. That means they are prone to forgetting, for example, the names of their very own grandchildren. So, what happens when those grandchildren come to visit? It might be a question of a care giver going over pictures and names of that resident’s grandchildren before they showed up on the Sunday afternoon’s visit. For a different patient, it might be helping them keep their personal day organized. Did they brush their teeth this morning? Where are their favorite pajamas? Every resident of an Adult Family Home is different, which is why it’s so suitable for dementia / memory care patients.

Not too much for a resident to remember

Imagine living in a nursing home with a hundred residents. First, it’s not possible for each care giver to know each resident intimately enough to offer on-the-spot, premium care. The care they give, while being professional and thoughtful, has to be somewhat generalized because there are simply too many people to know everything bout everyone. And with such a high number of residents, any turnover of residency means constantly keeping up with the changes. It’s simply too much.

In a nursing home, it’s also challenging for the residents. If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel for more than a few weeks, you’ll remember just how much and how fast things change. Most people breeze through the breakfast room once or twice, and you never see them again. A whole breakfast session can come and go, and not a word is hardly spoken by one resident to another. That’s fine when you’re just staying in the hotel a couple of nights, but can create a feeling of isolation for someone who is living in a nursing home.

In an Adult Family Home, however, it doesn’t take long for everyone to get to know everyone. It might seem like a subtle point, but consider the “three AM crisis”.

Coping with the “three AM crisis” in an Adult Family Home

As we age, we hopefully get better at understanding our own bodies. My own father had type one diabetes since his thirties. As you may know, there is always the risk of a type one diabetic that they take too much insulin (due to a low sugar level already) and their sugar level goes dangerously low. The body cannot survive with zero sugar, so this can send a diabetic into diabetic shock. They pass out, and if they do not take care of the situation quickly, they can pass into a coma and die. They process does to take very long, and is clearly a lethal risk, but the solution is incredibly simple. A couple of bites on a bar of Hershey’s chocolate, a piece or candy, or pretty much anything containing an instant does of sugar will bring the patient’s sugar level back to normal, and the crisis is averted. It’s why my father always carried a few hard sweets in his pocket wherever he went. He never once had to need to consume one, but he always had them. Now, imagine such a type one diabetic passes out in their armchair while in the care of a care giver. Without having to look up any charts, or familiarize themselves with the medical history of the resident, someone who knows the resident well will know there is always that risk with a type one diabetic, and will be able to make the correct and swift decision to first give them a little sugar in one for or another. Crisis averted, and not a moment lost.

Food flexibility and dementia

I am in my fifties, and if you were to ask me what I had for breakfast, I’d have to think hard about it for a minute. The older I get, the less I remember of the last twenty four hours. In fact, I’ve always wondered about the veracity of those crime programs where a person is asked where they were on an exact evening say eight weeks earlier. That’s pretty amazing. It seems like the guilty criminals always remember where they were every night for the past year! Well, as we age, what we eat becomes more and more important. Perhaps our bodies always were sensitive to food, but as we age, our bodies seem to punish us more easily for poor choices. That’s why what a senior in an Adult Family Home eats is important, and having a tailored diet to each resident’s needs is a huge benefit. Only an Adult Family Home can offer that type of flexibility, even if a resident can’t remember what they should or should not be eating. And it’s why the sheer size of an Adult Family Home makes it the ideal place for someone with dementia to live.

Image by Craig Whitehead