Failure-Free Activities

In a survey of caregivers, more than 90 percent of respondents expressed that their biggest challenge was finding recreational activities that kept cognitively impaired individuals engaged in meaningful activities. As part of our training at Our Family Home, we have established a comprehensive program of ‘failure-free’ activities, which we will be presenting soon in partnership with the Central Ohio Alzheimer’s Association’s First Friday.

When you’re caring for someone with memory disease, finding a variety of meaningful activities can be challenging but the results of this type of engagement can be incredibly beneficial. According to Marybeth Cartmille, Our Family Home’s Director of Marketing and Admissions, “We offer ‘failure-free’ activities, which means each activity is adapted in some way to meet the needs and capacity of individuals with memory loss. We want to create a situation where they succeed.”

The goal of ‘failure-free’ activities is to create a situation where the individuals involved won’t fail and instead reap the benefits of moment-to-moment satisfaction and increased self-esteem. Marybeth and the team at Our Family Home have been leading ‘failure-free’ activities in respite care groups during the Alzheimer’s Association’s First Fridays for more than three years.

“Our staff is well-trained to care for individuals at all stages of memory disease, so this is an important way for us to give back. We’re able to use our experience to provide a short period of rest for caregivers and active participation and engagement for seniors,” added Marybeth.

There are a few general guidelines to follow when choosing activities for individuals with memory disease:

  1. Focus on activities that are simple, repetitive, stress free and realistic for the current stage of the disease.
  2. Relate the project to work or life. Often individuals with memory disease believe they are a certain age or in a certain period of life. Try to connect activities to where they are.
  3. Avoid tasks that require new learning, abstract concepts or complex materials.
  4. Be creative. A lot of regular activities can be easily adapted. Reduce the number of steps, simplify the rules or shorten the time period.
  5. Have fun. Smile, laugh and keep it light.

If you’re interested in learning more about First Fridays or would like to register, you can call 1-800-272-3900 or visit

Meet Wellan!

Employee Spotlight: Wellan
Team Lead at Tonti Drive

What do you do for Our Family Home?

I am a team lead at our Tonti Drive home in Columbus and provide care to our residents. I help our residents get ready for the day. I make breakfast, engage in activities throughout the day and socialize with them.

How long have you worked with Our Family Home?

I have been with Our Family Home for five years.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy taking care of our residents and working with our families. Alzheimer’s is hard, particularly for families. It’s not easy to understand sometimes. I try to help our families and let them know we can handle this. That we can do this together. We want to help them through this disease too.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with my family. I have two boys and we enjoy bowling, movies and being together.

What have you learned working with the residents at Our Family Home?

The number one thing I have learned is to be patient. You need to be patient when you’re working with an individual with Alzheimer’s. I can’t just say let’s get up. I need to be patient. To give them time. I care for our residents the way I would want someone to care for me or to care for someone I love.

How does Our Family Home give residents and families more good days?

We want to make our residents happy and we do what we can to help them. One of our residents used to be an engineer. We asked him if he wanted to put a group of pipes together. He began putting them together. He smiled and he remembered.

This company has made me who I am today. Since I started working at Our Family Home, Evan has been there for me. He kept saying you got this. You have a big heart and you can do this. I’ve learned the most important thing about any job is the people you work with. How people treat other people. At Our Family Home, it’s a real family home.

How They Grew Up

The living room at our Dublin Longview home.

The home my mom grew up in was nice; a ranch with three bedrooms. However, there was no bonus room, no projector screens, no cappuccino machines. Her childhood home was simple. A radio and a turn table. Later a black and white television, then color when I was young.

Yet pick up a brochure from many of today’s memory care centers and you see a host of modern amenities: bright lights and large chandeliers, in-house movie theaters, spas, a 24-hour bistro. Amenities foreign to the way our parents grew up and especially challenging for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

As caregivers, it’s important to remind ourselves that individuals with Alzheimer’s likely will be able to recall personal and historic events from their childhood or young adult years more clearly than from the current day.

While adults with Alzheimer’s disease have challenges with short-term memory, often their remote memory can be left relatively intact. In other words, they’re able to remember events from decades ago, but are unable to tell you what they ate for breakfast.

While it’s very easy to get swayed by beautiful photos of piazzas, golf courses and courtyards, it’s important to picture the life our loved one may be experiencing in their mind.

I love when families tell me that their spouse or parent believes they are living in their own home because I know one of the greatest benefits of Our Family Home is that our residents can relate to and connect with the environment.

The secure, back patio at our Dublin Longview home.

Our homes feel familiar and comfortable, which helps reduce irritability and discomfort in people with Alzheimer’s. We often see changes in the demeanor of our residents after living in our homes. They’re more comfortable where they can eat at the kitchen table, relax in the family room and sit on the back porch.

If you have a loved one in memory care or are considering memory care, I encourage you to look past the flashy photos and ask yourself this important question, “Is this similar to the environment they grew up in or where they raised their family?”

Five Ways to Build Trust with your Out of State Memory Care Team

When Lisa Barco’s father finally realized that he could no longer care for his wife,  who had been living with Parkinson’s dementia, they first explored in home care. “At first, we tried having someone come to the house during the day while my father was at work, but soon my mom started wandering during the night and my dad was becoming sleep deprived. As she continued to deteriorate, we knew it was time to find full-time care,” shared Lisa Barco.

“We found Our Family Home online but didn’t know much about it. Once we learned about the personalized care and residential home environment, we decided it was the best place for mom. I live in Florida, but knew that my mom was best suited to be in Columbus near my brother and close to my father. While it was difficult to be away from her, Our Family Home worked to build my trust from the beginning.”

If you’re considering care out of state or in a different city, Lisa has kindly offered the following advice to consider:

  • Explore the environment: From our initial meeting with Our Family Home, we fell in love with the concept. Every time we went there, it was clean and smelled nice. The decor made it feel homelike and festive during the holidays. We wanted a place with a real living room and kitchen.
  • Observe the interactions with staff: Most importantly, look to see how the staff engages with residents. At Our Family Home, we always felt that the workers were friendly and peaceful. I didn’t hear stress or agitation in their voices. They were even-keeled and kind to all of the residents.
  • Choose an environment where the staff is accessible: The staff at Our Family Home has been attentive since day one. A nurse drove to Coshocton to meet with mom in her home to understand what her needs would be before we moved in. While she was with Our Family Home, they provided real time information and updates on my mom and I knew I could call or text any time. When she could still converse, they would help her to phone so we could talk and send cute photos. I always felt like the staff was personally involved.
  • Know what a typical day is like: As we were choosing a home for my mom, we wanted a place where we knew she wouldn’t be in bed all day. At Our Family Home, we loved that my mom would be around other people both residents and staff. The 5:2 resident to caregiver ratio assured us that someone would be there: supporting her, chatting with her and making sure she was clean and safe.
  • Most importantly, find a place where your loved one will be loved: What I loved most about our experience was the love and care the staff provided for my mom. They treated her with respect and dignity. I realized this most after seeing how hard they were hit by her death. They treat the residents as family. In her passing, I was reassured that she had a family all the way until the end.

It was never easy to be away from my mom during this time, but the staff at Our Family Home made it easier. I would recommend this scenario to anyone. The level of care is much greater, in many cases, than what you can even provide in your own home. With memory disease, there’s a point where there’s a frustration and sadness on both sides. It’s harder and harder to cohabitate peacefully. At Our Family Home, they know the disease and didn’t expect any more that what my mom could do.

Visiting a Person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Visitors are important to people with Alzheimer’s. They may not always remember who the visitors are, but just the human connection has value. Here are some ideas to share with someone who is planning to visit a person with Alzheimer’s.

  1. Plan the visit at the time of the day when the person is at his or her best. Consider bringing along some kind of activity, such as something familiar to read or photo albums to look at, but be prepared to skip it if necessary.
  2. Be calm and quiet. Avoid using a loud tone of voice or talking to the person as if he or she were a child. Respect the person’s personal space and don’t get too close.
  1. Try to establish eye contact and call the person by name to get his or her attention. Remind the person who you are if he or she doesn’t seem to recognize you.
  1. If the person is confused, don’t argue. Respond to the feelings you hear being communicated, and distract the person to a different topic if necessary.
  1. If the person doesn’t recognize you, is unkind, or responds angrily, remember not to take it personally. He or she is reacting out of confusion.


To read the full article, click here:
(Source: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly)

Meet Philip!

Employee Spotlight: Philip Owens
Team Leader

What do you do for Our Family Home?

I am a team leader with Our Family Home. In this role, I work with our care team and residents and help ensure that their needs are being met. More specifically, I help make sure that our reports are completed, medication is being managed properly and coordinate menus.

How long have you worked with Our Family Home?

It will be two years in January.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The residents. I enjoy interacting with our residents and engaging in conversation with them. I’m grateful for the things I’m learning at Our Family Home and the continued communication between the owner and the caregivers. We’re close.

What have you learned working with the residents of Our Family Home?

I have learned to have patience working with Alzheimer’s residents. It’s a different kind of care, where you can’t just walk into it. You gain a different experience working in this environment.

How does OFH give residents and families more good days?

We give residents more good days by going above traditional care standards. And, definitely our ratio. The 5 to 2 ratio is a good care system. We spend 12 hours a day with our residents, therefore we build trust, understand their needs and adjust our behavior based on their personalities.

Caring for Residents Also Means Caring for Our Caregivers

Our caregivers are the backbone of Our Family Home and our commitment to more good days. Providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is not easy. It requires deep compassion, dedication, and for many of us, training. Our caregivers are no different.

From the onset, we knew that to see our vision for providing high-level, personalized care come to fruition, we needed employees who were equipped with the resources, structure and tools to be successful. Much of that comes back to the right training and the right situation.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Training
Through new hire training and our ongoing “OFH University,” Our Family Home goes well beyond state-mandated training for our employees. We teach Teepa Snow principles and focus on the tools and techniques for patient, personal care.

Specifically, we work on identifying and understanding triggers, how to handle and de-escalate resistance from residents and understanding the effects of memory disease. We want our care teams to be able to connect with our residents where they are in their disease and adapt to the needs or situation of each resident.

Personal Development Training
At Our Family Home, we are committed to both the professional and personal growth of our employees. One of the most important aspects of our training is reducing caregiver stress. We do this in two ways: first, by providing Alzheimer’s and dementia-specific training aimed at lessening their work stress, and two, by improving self-care.

As caregivers, to provide the best care, we must also be sure to care for ourselves. This holds true for our staff as well. We focus a lot our attention on helping our caregivers take responsibility for healthy decisions, learn new techniques for managing the difficulties outside of work and find ways to cope with stress.

Maintaining Ratio
In addition to training, one of the most important things we do for our staff is maintain our 5:2 resident to caregiver ratio. Employees – and therefore our residents – will be unable to thrive if they are over-burdened or given the unrealistic care expectations of larger centers. To apply the principles of their training, two employees are only ever tasked with caring for up to five residents in one home during the day.

By keeping our ratio at an industry low, we are able to improve the working situation for our employees, the care for our residents and the personal connection that every individual needs.

Our residents thrive because of our caregivers. It is our responsibility to make sure our caregivers have the right training and resources to thrive as well.

Meet Begashaw!

Employee Spotlight: Begashaw Gurmessa
Assistant Manager

What do you do for Our Family Home?

I am an assistant manager with Our Family Home. In this role, I help oversee scheduling, payroll, resident care and our caregiver team.

How long have you worked with Our Family Home?

I started with Our Family Home six years ago as a caregiver.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

What I enjoy most is being able to pursue my purpose to help people. I used to work for a big company. Coming to Our Family Home has shown me how to see our residents like family. Now, my work is always centered around helping them.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I enjoy spending time with my children and family. I love to go to the park with my kids.

What have you learned working with the residents of Our Family Home?

I’ve learned so much. I didn’t have Alzheimer’s in my family, so I’ve learned a lot about the disease and its effects. I understand how their lives changed quickly as a result of the disease. More importantly, I’ve come to feel like our residents are family. When you see them every day and you connect with them, they stabilize and embrace you like family. That gives me purpose. That’s the reason I work here.

How does OFH give residents and families more good days?

In a lot of ways. How we treat our residents every day and our relationship with families. Our families believe in us and have confidence in us. They know we care. More Good Days guides us in our belief that our residents are going to have a good day. All of the caregivers at Our Family Home come to work to take care of the needs of our residents. It shows in the passion they have for the job we do and our relationships.

A Family Home

As we talk with families, one of the best compliments we receive is when they tell us that their loved one thinks they’re home. I was talking with a family member recently, and she shared, “I think my mom believes she’s in her childhood home because it was a ranch similar to this one.”

One of the main reasons I started Our Family Home was to give individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia a real home. A home with a kitchen table that tells the stories of the residents, families and caregivers who have shared meals together. A living room with a comfortable couch and views of a vibrant community with birds, squirrels and the occasional deer.

While some of the newer, larger memory care institutions may attract attention with state-of-the-art tracking technology or interior salons and pubs, we continue to find that what our residents desire more than any of these things is connection. We don’t need tracking technology because our caregivers are present and our homes are small. One of my top priorities is that we maintain our low 5:2 ratio of residents to caregivers at our homes.

However, connection isn’t just about being visible. It’s also about listening, caring and adjusting. We invest in training our caregivers to understand not just the needs of our residents but also to meet them where they are in their journey. We focus less on our schedules and more on theirs.

In a smaller home, we’re able to adjust easier to what is happening with our residents on any particular day. We work hard to build routines that bring comfort and familiarity, while also being flexible and agile enough to refine these measures when it makes sense. We recognize that we’re caring for people and that each person is special and unique.

We also realize that if we want to give our residents and our families more good days, we need to start with this day in our family home.

“My experience with Our Family Home has been completely different. The moment I walked in the door I knew it was the right place. It was open and airy. It felt familiar.” – Jolynn H.

“You made her feel like a person not a burden. You made her feel wanted and comfortable in her own home. This was her home and you were her family in all the ways that matter.” – Cindy S.

Forever Friends: The Story of Esther and Dottie

“It’s important to remember that Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the short-term memory first, so as soon as they saw each other their faces lit up. They recognized each other immediately,”  said Mary Carol.

Mary Carol’s mom, Dorothy, was a resident of Our Family Home when a family member noticed Dorothy’s cousin, Esther, in a photo posted by Our Family Home.

After a few phone calls, Mary Carol came to learn that both her mom and her cousin were residents and living only a block from each other. They quickly worked with the staff at both houses to reconnect them.

“It was so special. They took each other’s hands and recognized each other instantly. They talked about when they were young,” added Mary Carol. “My mom may not remember what she had for breakfast, but it’s amazing to hear her share stories about living on a farm growing up, bringing flowers to market and special lunches with their Godmother.”

Since reconnecting, Dorothy, who is 96 years old, and Esther, who recently celebrated her 101st birthday, continue to visit each other. “We took mom to visit Esther for her 101st birthday in a convertible. It was such a special day. It means a lot to me to see them together.”

While each family took a different route to find Our Family Home, they both believe in the residential home model and the importance of individualized care. “My advice to someone currently looking for care for a family member with memory disease is to find a place, like Our Family Home, that prioritizes respect, honor and love.”

“People often think that individuals with Alzheimer’s are gone, but they’re not. It’s helpful to speak about the past and connect something they are experiencing today with something they may have experienced earlier in their lives. Or, in our case, we were lucky to be able to connect mom with someone from her past.”