Alzheimer’s Care in Vancouver, Washington
If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, or other Dementias, you may be searching for elder housing and specialized Alzheimer’s care options. The choices can be confusing, so we’ve provided a description of the primary options below. This is a summary of input received from care-seekers who have contacted The GoodLife Adult Family Home in Vancouver, Washington. We hope their experiences and opinions help narrow your search, speed your learning process, and give you additional perspective on your choices.
In-Home Alzheimer’s Care
There are six primary long-term housing and care options for elderly persons with Alzheimer’s. The first is to arrange for in-home care by agency caregivers. This can work when the person is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and has shown no sign of endangering themselves. In-home caregivers can visit for a few hours each day to clean, do laundry, or break up the day with companionship. They extend independence for people who “just need a little help.”
In-home caregivers are less practical, however, when ongoing care is needed throughout the day. If your loved one’s decision making is poor, if multiple medication passes are needed, toileting assistance is required, if they can’t safely cook for themselves, or have similar needs, then in-home care is probably not adequate.
Most families find that in-home care service is prohibitively expensive for longer shifts, or 24-hour care. A rule of thumb is: If more than four hours of in-home care are required each day, it may be beneficial to consider an adult family home.
Live With a Family Member
The second option is to have the Alzheimer’s sufferer move in with a family member. As with all choices, there are significant pros and cons to consider. If the home living situation is right, if the home itself is equipped for care, if there is a responsible, non-working adult at home at all times, and night time needs can be met, this option can work for the resident. When practical, it’s much better for an Alzheimer’s sufferer to be at home with loved ones, than in a “facility” or institution.
The problem is that, in practice, this seldom works well. Home-caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer is exhausting at best, and often ends badly. Many well-intentioned caregivers find they’re not prepared for the on-going obligations and incessant work. In essence, they must substitute their lifetime for the resident’s lifetime, so loved ones find themselves resenting the individual and losing patience with them. Both parties end up living less-than-optimal lives.
This is part of a relatively new care problem for families. Why? First, the incidence of Alzheimer’s has increased substantially in recent decades, putting burdens on families that weren’t there before. Increased longevity has also contributed to the rise of “Sandwich Generation” families. These are people who care for a demented elderly loved one, as well as their own children or grandchildren. To top this off, most households need both couples working to make ends meet, so the result is a recipe for mental, emotional and financial hardship. Many find that quality of life improves for the Alzheimer’s sufferer, and everyone else in the family, when professional care is provided.
Nursing Home Care
Nursing homes fit into Alzheimer’s care when the resident is recovering from an injury, is undergoing early rehabilitation, or requires similar skilled nursing care. Nursing homes are typically too expensive, are not adequately staffed, and are not designed to provide long-term Alzheimer’s care.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted Living Facilities are larger housing facilities with individual rooms or apartments. Some facilities are attractive to the eye, offer activities, and have lots of co-residents to mingle with. Assisted living can work when the resident is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and can care for themselves. However, assisted living is often the most disappointing of all choices for people looking for dependable Alzheimer’s care.
Customers with experience tell us that close care is simply not a reliable offering from assisted living facilities. The facility’s large size doesn’t match with a personalized care mission. In other words, “economies of scale” and “attentive care” are naturally-conflicting business priorities. For example, caregivers are “hired hands” instead of invested owners. Most are paid minimum wage or slightly above, and care varies with individual motivation. Naturally, that contributes to an environment of less-involved care. Staff turnover, lack of on-going familiarity with resident needs and preferences, isolation in rooms, and other factors also contribute.
Basically assisted living staff have lots of people to care for. These caregivers frequently call in sick, leaving the rest with extra work loads. Consequently, many caregivers are more focused on getting through their day, than providing attentive care. One family member put it this way: “Residents have to care for themselves in assisted living facilities. If they need reliable assistance with activities of daily living, they will be disappointed.”
For example, one woman was told that staff would escort her mother to the facility dining room for each meal. (Her mother couldn’t remember to eat on her own, and couldn’t find her way in the facility.) This arrangement worked for a few days, but then quickly fell apart. The daughter learned that the only way to ensure her mother got food, was to drive to the facility and personally help her to the cafeteria. “If the facility can’t be relied upon to do simple things like this, how can we rely on them for the bigger things?” she asked.
Other former assisted living customers have expressed problems with loved ones sitting in soiled undergarments for hours, not being bathed, not getting enough to drink, excessive urinary tract infections, falling in their apartment and not being found for days, and missed medications.
Another problem with assisted living facilities’ large size is the spread of communicable infection. Having lots of people in a close environment can lead to the fast spread of disease. Also, larger facilities are harder to clean, contain and control. That’s why assisted living facilities (and nursing homes) are periodically closed to visits because of infections. One family recently complained that their loved one, and all family members who visited him, contracted Norovirus. Her opinion was that, in spite of appearances, large facilities are not healthy places to live.
Another complaint is “point pricing” in assisted living facilities. This is where monthly care invoices get add-ons, and up-charges, for individual services. One couple said they were charged extra because a caregiver laid out a hair brush for their mother.
Loss-leader pricing is another problem practice. (Low rates are quoted up front, but are raised after the resident moves in.) Also, rates are frequently increased with the promise that care will increase proportionality. These promised services are seldom delivered. Most find that, in spite of claims to the contrary, assisted living care is one-size fits all.
One family member summed it up this way, “Assisted Living Facilities are, first and foremost, real estate rental businesses. Care is not their strong suit.”
Memory Care Facilities
Memory Care Units are the next option. These facilities are specially-designed for certain Alzheimer’s residents. They are locked down 24-hours a day to prevent exit seeking, and are often the best option for residents with substantial behavior issues. They may, or may not, be the best choice for those who assimilate well with others. While Memory Care Units provide much closer care than assisted living facilities, they still struggle with some of the same staffing problems, and individualized care issues.
Adult Family Homes
Adult Family Homes (also known as Adult Foster Homes) are growing in popularity as the choice for Alzheimer’s care. Adult Family Homes are the least restrictive to the resident, most comfortable, and usually most affordable of all the care options. They can provide a warm home environment instead of a sterile clinical one. Through Nurse Delegation, they can also provide common RN services such as insulin shots and eye drops.
Other advantages include a high caregiver-to-resident ratio. Adult family homes care for no more than 6 residents with one, or often two, caregivers. In good homes, residents are continually under the watchful eye of a caregiver, since they are in a smaller environment.
A possible scenario is this: A resident from an assisted living facility comes to an adult family home. The resident is heavily medicated, is under- or over-weight, has unattended skin wounds, and certain behavior issues. His hygiene is poor and he is fearful of caregivers. In two to three months, the smaller environment and more attentive care make a substantial difference in his mental state, physical condition, confidence, ability to assimilate with others, and reduction of agitation and fears. Physical and mental problems sometimes resolve substantially, and the resident is able to resume a quality lifestyle.
Pricing and invoicing are also strengths of adult family homes. AFHs typically invoice with one fixed fee and direct incidental expenses, so monthly expenses are more predictable. In an AFH, residents might get 24 hours of care for the cost of four hours from an in-home agency. Rates vary, but AFHs are typically less expensive than all other housing and care options.
Why Choose The GoodLife Adult Family Home for Alzheimer’s Care?
The GoodLife provides, arguably, the finest environment and most attentive Alzheimer’s care for “non-behavioral” adult residents in Vancouver, Washington. The home continually works to lead the industry in care, activities, dining, safety and accessibility.
The GoodLife owners live on-site, and are involved elder-care advocates who understand the needs of Alzheimer’s residents and their families. GoodLife residents get outstanding food, appropriate exercise, sunshine and fresh air. They also get a beautiful calming environment, and the very best life-engaging activities to fit their individual condition and needs. These may range from things as simple as folding towels, to overnight beach trips, games, casino trips, county fairs, fishing trips, sporting events, and many others.
One resident described The GoodLife Adult Family Home as “a God-send” after having her loved one in both assisted living and memory facilities. Those who understand Alzheimer’s care recognize The GoodLife as, likely, the foremost housing and adult foster care provider in the Vancouver, Washington area.