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

The short answer is no, dementia will not prevent your loved one from living at an Adult Family Home in the Seattle area or anywhere in Washington State for that matter. Here’s why.

Washington State law mandates only six residents in any one Adult Family Home

It seems obvious that there should be such a law. After all, the words ‘family home’ in the business category of Adult Family Home would suggest that it should resemble more of a home where a family would be comfortable living. Imagine if twelve or twenty residents were allowed under that single roof! It would be more like a multiple family home, complete with all the anonymity and noise that comes with so many people living together.

Because Washington State says a maximum of six, you know it won’t take long for the staff to get to know each resident personally. And good staff will often remember the names of the grandchildren, for example, before they show up on their weekly. There’s nothing more embarrassing that forgetting the names of your grandchildren, and to have a helping hand with the photo collection before they show us is a huge advantage of being in an Adult Family Home versus living in a Nursing Home, where it’s far more difficult to keep abreast of residents’ family details simply because each staff member is supporting dozens and in some cases hundreds of residents. Imagine how difficult that might be.

With only six residents, each staff member can get up to speed very quickly and personally. And when that three-in-the-morning crisis surfaces, that staff member doesn’t need to go look in the filing cabinet to see what medical issues may be at hand. And on that note...

Medical conditions can be addressed immediately in an Adult Family Home

It does cost more to live in an Adult Family Home compared to living in a Nursing Home, but think about what happens in an emergency. Knowing each resident personally means a staff member – the care taker of your loved one – can be in a position to make a medical decision on the spot, instead of having to look up their chart before acting.

Imagine a type 1 diabetic was feeling weak and unable to talk. Any medical person will tell you, this means you have moments to act, in many cases. Knowing this means the care giver can simply give the resident a sweet to bring their sugar level back up. But if they had to go find their medical chart to know what’s going on, precious time can be lost. It can mean the difference between life and death, or the difference between a minor incident and a full blown emergency.

Many Adult Family Home staff are retired nurses

Imagine for a moment the difference in atmosphere between an Adult Family Home and a hospital. For one, hospitals are – by their very nature – full of sick people. At least, if you’re not sick, you should probably go home now. A trained, registered and experienced nurse deals with emergencies all day long. At least, they are helping sick or injured people all day. Life or death decisions are made frequently, and it’s important to make good ones. Now imagine that same nurse, a few years later, in charge of a few people at an Adult Family Home. Emergencies can be dealt with in moments, gracefully, without the situation becoming a disaster. Without missing a beat, an experienced registered nurse will be able to deal with almost any situation. She won’t have to, for example, call an ambulance, rather than deal with a problem on the spot.

“Wake Staff” are a feature of every good Adult Family Homes

Wake staff is the term used for having care taker(s) in residence at an Adult Family Home. What this means is, when an emergency surfaces, there is someone close to hand to help deal with it. In an Adult Family Home that does not have wake staff, the residents are, more or less, left to their own devices. This might be perfectly fine for some residents – remember, many residents are simply moving from living on their own anyway – because they are not expecting any health issues.

Wake staff will usually not be expected to be awake, necessarily, for their entire shift. They might be, but the key is to be available and ready to deal with an emergency when it happens. They might be dosing on a couch, but fully connected to any warning system that has been set up. For example, if a resident gets out of bed – or indeed falls out of bed – a good Adult Family Home will have a pressure mat that reacts to the incident, sending a message to the wake staff that someone has left their bed. From there, the wake staff – remember, usually a retired registered nurse – will be able to take care of the incident immediately. All they have to do is, probably, put on a pair of slippers and go to the resident’s room immediately.

Dementia means needing someone to remember for yourself

If you’re a fan of Wallender, the detective series set in Sweden, you might remember the last episode. Wallender, a full-time detective, began to lose his memory. His daughter told him to not worry, she would “be his memory for him”. Well, of course, it’s fiction, but sometimes having someone to remember for you is all you need. You’ll get that at a good Adult Family Home and it can make all the difference in quality of life for your loved one suffering from dementia.

More next week!