Adequate Care: Five levels, five differences in adult care facilities

CEDAR HILLS, Ore. - It's one of the toughest decisions a family faces: where to place a loved one when they become too old or sick to take care of themselves.

And the recent death of a patient with dementia has sparked questions. On Thursday, Washington County sheriff's deputies found the body of 69-year-old Brant William Koller in the backyard of a Cedar Hills home. He had walked away from his care facility on Southwest Roxbury near Highway 217 Tuesday afternoon.

There is a big difference in care facilities. There are five levels of care facilities in Oregon with different levels of security. Some have special certification to deal with Alzheimer's patients. The state says the quality of care and security often comes down to how much money a family pays.

The home where Koller wandered away from is called Fireside Homes for Elders. It's an adult foster home.

According to the state, adult foster homes can house a maximum of five people, are less expensive and have the lowest amount of security of adult care facilities.

"In the facility I worked at it was easy to walk out. Very easy," said Kelly Davis who worked in a much larger adult care facility unrelated to the one where Koller lived.

Davis quit last month because she was frustrated by the poor quality of care she saw in the facility she worked in.

"They don't pay the staff a comparable wage," she said. "I hate to use the term, you get what you pay for, but unfortunately we do."

More security and more supervision certainly cost families a lot more money. The Oregon chapter of Alzheimer's Association says families need to know wandering is a symptom of the disease that gets worse.

"They may be acting on a memory maybe from their early years and they will leave a premise," said Kristrun Grondal with the association.

According to the association, patients with dementia wander so often you should expect it. It says 70 percent of patients take off at some point during their care.

"One of the things you don't want to do is having to move people many times," Grondal said. "You want to find a setting that fits the personality and the needs of the person - also the needs of what's coming in terms of the disease."

According to regulators, Fireside has a clean record and passed its latest inspection last month.

Helpful links when choosing a care facility:

State of Oregon tips for choosing a long-term care setting

Alzheimer's Association 24/7 phone line - provides information and support to people who need assistance figuring out where to place a relative

State of Washington Aging and Disability Services Administration