I am often asked how a CPA comes to spend most of his life in the dementia field.
My first exposure to dementia came through caring for my grandmother who was diagnosed with senility, most likely Alzheimer’s disease. I started my career as an auditor but some years later became a healthcare consulting manager, I also served as the CFO of a very large multi-specialty clinic.

As the health care system failed my family and many others, I decided to get involved to address the lack of coordination of services and the lack of adequately trained health care professionals. Teaming up with a geriatric nurse practitioner in the late 1980s, I learned the ropes of aging & care giving. We focused our careers on better meeting the needs of those with dementia by promoting advocacy, quality, compassion, and knowledge. We experimented with care and environmental concepts when we developed and operated 29 dementia care homes in Wisconsin.

In 2006, Bernie Marinelli, RN/BSN, and I formed Satori Pathway, a dementia care consultancy. Bernie received her extensive mental health behavioral training at the Charles River Hospital in Massachusetts and at Alexian Behavioral Health Hospital in Illinois. Our main focus was to provide services to the majority of persons with dementia who wanted to stay at home. There was a need for options other than residential care that would enable persons with dementia to remain in the least restrictive care setting for as long as possible.

Our observation over the past 25 years was that because of economics and market demand, assisted living facilities were getting bigger and bigger and fancier and fancier. This may market well but doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of many persons who have dementia. We define success as social engagement, smiles and maintaining the self-esteem of the person with the disease, i.e., quality of life. In this case, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Our research demonstrated that, as the size of the dementia facility decreased so did the behavioral challenges of the residents while social engagement increased.  It is much easier for a person with dementia to settle in to an actual home than a homelike environment. As much as we endorse the idea of keeping people in their own homes, there usually comes a point where residential care is necessary both for the health and safety of the person with dementia and for the emotional and physical health of the family caregivers. Thus, was born, our concept of the small residential dementia home. The staff at each home cares for just five residents.

Our pilot project was Anam Parc, two 5 bed homes in Jacksonville, Florida. We began Cairn Park development in Ft. Myers a year ago and are now almost ready to open our second home. We bring our hearts to the care of our dementia residents and families, as well as our expertise born out of decades of experience in the dementia field. Our families trust us, and we feel fulfilled and proud to be of service by helping people at their most vulnerable times.

Stu Gaines  Stu Gaines CEO Cairn Park