When starting our business 20-plus years ago, Chris and I always held the belief that family, above all else, as the most important part of life. It’s a belief we’ve never lost sight of in our line of work and something that is constantly reaffirmed through the interactions we share with our residents and their families. Like many, Chris and I value the bond we share with those we love more than anything. We’ve always felt extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to help so many during times of great need, and always approach every situation as if those we care for are a part of our own family. Regardless, losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things we face in life. With that, I would like to share my story in hopes that it will help others.
My father, John Engel, sadly passed from dementia on March 11, 2017. He was 75 years old and had no prior family history of the disease. He was a smart, active and healthy man who always did the best he could to take care of himself. Despite a demanding schedule as a vice president of an insurance company, he always made time for his family and devoted countless hours to hobbies he loved like hiking, skiing, writing and so much more.
Dementia can be a long, difficult journey. It’s something we see so often with our residents and their families, yet something that’s hard to imagine ever happening to those in your immediate family. Throughout this long and difficult process, you continually have hope but slowly come to realize that eventually you must say goodbye. I, like so many I’ve come to know, recently came to this realization during my father’s final months.
Though my family and I are still healing, we felt so fortunate to have been able to care for our grandparents, my uncle, many other close friends and family members, and now my father, in their final days. Losing a parent is a heartbreaking experience. The rock you grew up knowing your entire life is suddenly gone, leaving a void you’ve never known before. My dad was not only my rock but was also Mom’s other half. They truly were their best selves when they were together. Seeing the man your mother loved her entire life slip away is another difficult moment you cannot prepare for.
We were not ready when my dad’s physician, Dr. Kramp, said, “It’s time” several months ago, though we found comfort knowing that we would be able to care for my dad. At the end of our conversation, Dr. Kramp said he “knows of a really good place.” We all smiled, thanked him and agreed that it was time. Hearing those words from our long-time trusted doctor hit home. Shortly after, we placed Dad on our waiting list, and even in his dementia state, he jokingly said to us, “What! I have supported this organization for nearly two decades and I am on the waiting list?” We all laughed. Dad always had a great sense of humor.
Moving day was one of the hardest days, but Dad made it easy on us and so did our amazing team at Family First! Within a couple days I could see Mom looking more rested and less stressed. She was sad to go home without him but visited every day and knew when she left he would be loved and well cared for. She asked, “Honey, what do families do that don’t have Family First?” It was helpful knowing my mom found comfort during this difficult time in both of our lives. Much of this comfort came from our wonderful staff who immediately bonded with Dad. Many of them knew him from working for us for several years. I loved the way they made him smile and interacted with him in his fragile state.
As Dad’s care increased, our team of caregivers, Franciscan Hospice and Dr. Kramp worked together to ensure he was getting every possible need met. Chris and I knew this is what our team does for our residents every day, but to be a family member on the other side gave us a deeper insight into how our team brings peace to our residents and their loved ones up until the very end.
Everyone’s experience is different for those needing continuing care, however, bringing the quality of life to those who can no longer take care of themselves has been and continues to be the greatest honor that Chris, myself and our entire staff get to experience within our work at Family First.
Thank you for reading our story and trusting us with the care of your loved one.
Family First Adult Family Homes
4700 Point Fosdick Drive NW Suite 312
Gig Harbor, Washington 98335