Spokane Journal of Business

Guardian Angel to launch dementia care program

New protocol includes therapy, diet, treatment

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Guardian Angel Homes, a family-owned and operated retirement community established in Liberty Lake in 2003, plans to launch next month a new program designed to help slow cognitive decline. 

The program, called Enhance Protocol, will be available to all residents, regardless of whether they have dementia. It’s already beginning to receive a lot of inquiries, says Joan Estudillo, longtime administrator at the retirement community.

Guardian Angel Homes has set up therapy and treatment rooms and has brought on a specialized therapist to evaluate each resident and run the therapy equipment.

Therapies include infrared sauna, aromatherapy, oxygen therapy, and pulse electromagnetic frequency treatments. Enhance Protocol also will include multiple menu options, such as the MIND diet, which is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet, and a regimen known as dietary approaches to stop hypertension, or DASH.

Before beginning the treatment plan, those who wish to participate will be assessed and evaluated based on family history, health, lab test results, and genetic risks factors, Estudillo adds. Then, each resident will be given a treatment plan.

Guardian Angel Homes, in Richland, Washington, has been practicing the protocol, and staff members there claim they are seeing positive results, says Estudillo.

“People who haven’t talked in a long time are saying words,” she asserts. “It’s not going to cure it. We know that. But it gives some quality of life to folks.”

The Liberty Lake facility had been set to begin offering this treatment plan in 2020, however, it was forced to stall it due to the pandemic.

“We’re just really waiting for this to be over. It’s been the worst two years of our lives in long term care,” says Estudillo.

She adds that it was difficult for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia to understand what was going on during the pandemic-induced lockdown.

Guardian Angel had set up window visits, which often further confused the residents, she says. Isolation and boredom already are barriers for residents within retirement homes, and the pandemic only made that worse, she adds.

“It was heartbreaking. You come to work crying and you go home crying,” says Estudillo of the COVID-19 surges.

However, the staff searched for creative ways to keep residents comforted and entertained while still maintaining safety. Guardian Angel cut down activity groups to six from 15, practiced social distancing, and kept closer watch on each resident.

Estudillo is looking forward to this spring when Guardian Angel plans to develop a small park on the 6-acre campus that will be equipped with a pickleball court, exercise equipment, a walking path, benches, and a water feature.

“It will be a place for them to visit and enjoy,” she says of the planned park.

Estudillo has been with Guardian Angel Homes, located at 23102 E. Mission, since it opened its doors. She has seen it grow from one memory care facility to a campus of five “houses” catering to its residents needs and abilities.

The campus has one assisted-living house, The Colonial, decorated with early American furniture and art. The 40,000-square-foot structure has two floors and holds 31 apartments. It is attached to a 4,300-square-foot community center with an entertainment stage and large commercial kitchen. Living units in The Colonial range in size from a studio, which rents for $4,100 a month to a deluxe one-bedroom apartment for $4,800 monthly.

Four other houses on the campus are dedicated to assisted-living memory care with 15 residents each. The suites range in size and price from $3,675 to $4,475. An additional $800 monthly fee is charged when a second person lives in the units.

Guardian Angel offers assistance in over a dozen activities of daily living, such as eating assistance and dietary needs, bathing, dressing, mobility and transfer assistance, night needs, communication assistance, appointment scheduling and transportation, coordination with third-party providers, and socialization and recreation.

Guardian Angel’s 28 independent-living cottage units are in duplex structures with each unit having two bedrooms, two baths, and a single-car garage. They rent for $3,000 monthly.

There currently are 125 residents living at Guardian Angels Homes, with more than half living in memory care. Residents range in age from 58 to 104, and the average age is 85.

Basic rent for each resident includes three meals a day, housekeeping, cable TV, and utilities.

Other amenities include an activities and outings program, a full-service salon and barber shop in each home, an emergency call system, and five full-time nurses who collectively provide 24/7 care, says Estudillo.

Guardian Angel Homes was started by Marty Frantz in 1997, after his own father developed dementia following a stroke.

Now, Frantz’s children, Tyson Frantz and Jennifer Baus Sasmoska, have taken over the family business. They have researched the Enhance Protocol treatment plan and are constantly searching for the new opportunities to improve residents’ lives, Estudillo says.

“They’re always looking out for what they can do for residents. They don’t stay in a bubble,” she asserts. “I love that about them. It makes a difference.”

Guardian Angel Homes Liberty Lake is affiliated with other Guardian Angel Homes in Richland; Post Falls; Lewiston, Idaho; and Hermiston, Oregon.

Karina Elias
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Reporter Karina Elias covers the banking and finance industry. A California native, she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Karina loves salsa dancing, traveling, baking, cuddling with her dog, and writing creative fiction and non-fiction.  

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