Senior Beat
by Carol Higgins Taylor
Special to The Weekly

Caregiving is challenging in the best of circumstances but caring for someone with dementia is a special kind of stressful. Getting a break from the responsibilities is critical. Fortunately there is a way to relieve some of the strain, a few hours at a time.

Adult day programs offer seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease social interaction and ensure that they will be mentally engaged at their individual skill level. They’ll typically also have fun which is a gift.

While the seniors are otherwise engaged, the caregiver can enjoy some much needed personal time. These community-based adult day programs are designed for older adults with thinking, memory and-or physical impairments.

Many seniors may be initially resistant to joining an adult day programs, but once they start attending on a regular basis, most love it, which leaves the caregivers worry free and wondering why they didn’t use this option sooner.

Comprehensive adult day services, depending on whether they are a social or medical model, provide a safe, protective setting. In a medical model, participants receive health monitoring by trained staff and other support services. In a social model medical monitoring may not be available.

But in both models, attendees enjoy social activities, and sometimes nutritious meals and snacks that are designed to meet their specific dietary needs.

Many caregivers are unaware of the high level of sophistication of the service and care provided by adult day programs. Some people have shown mild improvement in their conditions due to the social stimulation and change of scene. And the programs help keep those who need constant care at home to be out in the community with family and friends for as long as possible.

If you’re the caregiver, it may be difficult to consider allowing “strangers” to care for your beloved family member but it may be the best thing for both of you. Caregivers need respite and a change of environment with socialization can help the person with Alzheimer’s.

Adult day is typically for people who cannot structure their own daily activities anymore, are isolated and or who desire companionship. The program is also for those who can’t be safely left alone at home, or whose caregiver has a job and is gone for long stretches of time.

Adult day programs generally operate Monday through Friday but some may have Saturday hours, and cost varies.

So, how do you find an adult day program that’s right for your situation? Here are a few questions to ask when inquiring about a facility:

  • Does staff prepare individualized assessments of each new client?
  • Are medications administered, in a medical model?
  • Does the center provide a variety of interesting social activities?
  • Are staff members trained in emergency procedures?
  • Are there staff members who specialize in working with clients with dementia and memory loss?
  • Does the facility have a sprinkler system?
  • Is transportation provided to and from the center?
  • Is the center clean, well maintained, and free of odors?

Ask staff to see latest inspection results or state survey. As for overall quality, look for a caring and concerned staff, happy active participants and a welcoming feeling for the caregiver.

For information on adult day services, call Eastern Area Agency on Aging at 941-2865. As with any service, the best time to start exploring what’s available is before you actually need it.

Families can take comfort in the knowledge that their loved one is being well cared for and are most likely enjoying themselves. And that is a gift.

The stress relieving properties of respite are gifts too. Everyone needs to recharge and adult day programs can help caregivers avoid burning out.

Caring for yourself can be the best gift you give your loved one.

Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns Bryant Street Public Relations

in Bangor. Email her at seniorbeat@gmail.com.