Does an Adult Family Home look after seniors suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's Disease or memory loss, in Shoreline?

An Adult Family Home is perhaps the most ideal place to live when a person is suffering from dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is just one form. Because many forms of dementia centers around some form of memory loss, keeping the ‘list if things to remember’ to a minimum can be a great stress reducer. In an Adult Family Home, there is a limited number of people’s names, for instance, because there is a limit of only six persons – by law in the State of Washington – allowed to reside in any one residence.

Fewer things to remember means extra safety

A hospital is meant for emergencies and for people who are ill and need treatment, surgery or other medical interventions on their behalf. A Nursing Home is somewhere between a hospital and an Adult Family Home. It can house greater numbers than an Adult Family Home can, and has a degree of anonymity to it. For some residents, anonymity is a blessing, but for others, they want a more intimate, “home like” feel to where they live.

Because there is a maximum of just six actual residents under care in an Adult Family Home, it doesn’t take long for any one resident to get to know all the staff. Even with shifts, including what is called Wake Staff, it doesn’t take long for any one resident to get to know each caregiver intimately. That alone will bring a sense of security and comfort to a resident. Perhaps what’s more important is, the caregiver won’t take long to get to know each resident. When that small emergency at three AM surfaces, a caregiver will be in a position to make decisions quickly, and often not have to look up charts or medical records before making the right decision. Imagine, for example, a type 1 diabetic resident’s sugar falls too low, and they need to ingest a small amount of sugar to bring it back up to normal, a caregiver who know that resident’s medical history will be in a position to – there and then – take care of the small problem before it becomes a big one.

Many Adult Family Home caregivers are retired nurses

As it turns out, the perfect retirement job for a registered nurse is to work at an Adult Family Home. After years of dealing with the moment to moment crises that are common in any hospital, a nurse would find the relative calm of an Adult Family Home to be very manageable. And they bring all that wealth of experience of having worked for years in a far more intense environment to bear on the day to day things that emerge in an Adult Family Home.

Being a retired nurse means each resident under their care is safer. And the typical retired nurse is also capable of handling several emergencies at once, and without missing a beat. It’s simply far easier for them than what they’re used to.

“Wake Staff” brings comfort to those with dementia

For all those who have sobbed their way through the later sections of The Notebook movie, you’ll remember the challenge of people forgetting who their partner is. People with dementia can forget everyone around them. They might remember, for instance, that they have twelve grandchildren, but not remember the names or faces of any one of their family members. Then an hour later, some memory returns, and they seem to have ‘recovered’ for a moment. That’s hard on relatives who often themselves become confused with the unpredictability of it all. So, what happens when your loved one wakes up in the middle of the night, and forgets who they are or where they are? They step out of bed and begin to wander around the residence in a confused daze, perhaps also a danger to themselves and to others. This is where Wake Staff can be very important.

Wake Staff if the term they use for caregiver staff at an Adult Family Home who stay overnight. It usually implies that there will be some form of caregiver staff there at all times, night and day, every day of the year. The residents are never really alone. Not all Adult Family Homes have such Wake Staff, but it is becoming more and more common, and it is all but essential for residences that host those with dementia.

In an Adult Family Home with Wake Staff – or without, for that matter – there will be mechanisms for helping the staff to recognize when, for example, a resident got (or fell out) of bed. A pressure pad placed on the floor for the length of the bed sends a signal to the caregiver on duty. There are cords to pull in the event a resident gets into difficulties, for instance, in the bathroom. The caregiver can then make their way to the resident and deal with a small problem before it becomes a big one.

Wake Staff might not necessarily be awake, but they will be ready to respond. It’s often the case that overnight caretaker staff won’t need to be actually awake, but they might be, for example, lying on a couch close to the residents, and be able to simple slip into a pair of shoes and go into action. This is no problem, of course, to the typical retired registered nurse who has spent her whole life responding quickly to emergencies.

Taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves

With only six residents to look after, a caregiver at an Adult Family Home is in a particularly good position to look after a resident with dementia. In one case some years ago, I observed a caregiver going over the family photographs with a resident right before family visiting time. The resident could remember – for perhaps thirty minutes – the names of his own children and grandchildren, if he was reminded of them. Dementia is usually progressive – meaning it gets worse with time – but when there is an opportunity to make for example one more Christmas Day a memorable one, an Adult Family Home is the place it’s most likely to offer it to you.

More next week!