After Betty Mundy’s husband, Jack, received an early diagnosis of dementia she faced a swirl of conflicting emotions that ranged from relief to overwhelming worry about the future.
On one hand, she was grateful for the clarity that his diagnosis provided. She said, “I told myself that I could handle anything if I know exactly what I’m up against.” On the other hand, her husband’s diagnosis raised more questions and concerns than answers. She was afraid of having to watch her partner of 40 years disappear bit by bit, and of not having enough clarity about the resources and support each of them would need to manage the future.
“Each day that I kissed Jack goodbye to leave for work, I felt guilty. Because I have to work, both for my own mental health and for the income, I felt that I was abandoning him every single day. It was killing me,” she said.
Her husband tried to keep busy while she was away at work, but he would quickly become bored and more isolated over time. Then, one day, he tried to warm his lunch in the oven. He turned the temperature to 450 degrees and put a Tupperware container of food inside. “An hour later, he called me to say that I needed to come home because the inside of the stove was on fire,” she said.
“I felt like a failure and a terrible wife,” Mundy says. “My poor adoring husband was quickly losing his sense of purpose and now, every day, I was putting him in an unsafe situation. We did not have the finances to hire a home health aide or caregiver.”
A few days later, Mundy’s neighbor told her about an adult day program for families just like hers. “I never knew such a thing existed, but I jumped on the suggestion and called to schedule a tour. I’m so glad I did. It has been a life-changer and a lifesaver.”
Jack was skeptical at first, but he fell in love with the program after two days. He easily made new friends and began socializing over lunch and snack time. Mundy says, “He has even explored his artistic side by participating in a painting class at the center. His work is lovely. And all these years, I never knew he had an artistic bone in his body. Although I sometimes feel like I am losing him, there are other times when an incredible new side of him is being revealed.” Occasionally, he will sit and listen to a piano recital performed by another participant or help make cookies in the group kitchen.
According to Amy Meier, program manager for Galileo Place (YoloCares adult day program), “Creative outlets like music and art really help our participants feel confident in themselves.”
Dina Jacopi, Galileo Place activities coordinator, says, “Art therapy is a great way for people with dementia to express themselves, stimulate their mind and experience a sense of accomplishment.”
Art is only one of many forms of expression supported at Galileo Place. Meier says a small group of regular participants have formed their own musical group. “A banjo player, pianist, and vocalist gather at Galileo Place every Friday to make music,” she says. “They elevate the energy throughout the entire building.”
For the first time since her husband’s diagnosis, Mundy feels optimistic. She says, “The center has given Jack a sense of purpose and many new friendships. He feels valued, and I feel supported. I don’t feel guilty anymore. I have the freedom to live my life and to support my husband through this journey.”
Adult day programs like Galileo Place can provide caregivers with a needed break while giving older family members a chance to socialize with their peers and alleviate the isolation and loneliness that they may otherwise experience. It is through Galileo Place that family caregivers who must work during the day or need a break from stressful, ongoing caregiving obligations can get much-needed time to recharge.
Being a caregiver can be physically and emotionally draining. Staying at home all day with one other person can also lead to depression and cognitive decline. Caregivers need time for themselves … whether it is to be with friends or to earn a paycheck.
Traditional community senior centers are a great place for relatively healthy older people to exercise or take classes, however, adult day programs serve individuals with physical or cognitive disabilities who may need more supervision and services.
Evidence shows that older people who attend these centers have a better quality of life. Research published in “The Gerontologist,” found that adult day programs provide health-related, social, psychological and behavioral benefits for participants, particularly those with dementia and other cognitive impairments.
Arranging for a loved one to spend time in an adult day program is also beneficial to a caregiver’s well-being. Another study published in the journal “Aging & Mental Health” found that both dementia patients and caregivers slept better, with fewer disturbances, on the nights before loved ones attended an adult day program. Moreover, the use of adult day services has a positive impact on dementia caregivers’ mood, health and relationships and reduces their sense of role overload.
Adult day services are ideal for older adults with cognitive impairments, such as dementia, or for homebound seniors who are isolated and need social interaction and some physical activity. Generally, participants in adult day programs are incapable of managing and structuring their daily activities on their own due to cognitive or mobility issues.
A real benefit of programs like Galileo Place is tied to the possibility of delaying or preventing a move to long-term residential care so that older adults can live at home or in the community as long as possible. Other benefits include:
- The provision of a safe, secure setting for adults with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or mobility issues who are at risk of wandering from home, falling, or injuring themselves.
- Social activity and companionship, which can foster better mental and physical health.
- Activities that strengthen muscles and improve balance, thereby, reducing the risk of falls at home.
- Enhanced sleep quality as a result of consistent social and physical activity.
- Reduced caregiver stress, burnout, anxiety and depression.
Among all the options for long-term care, adult day services may be the least well known, even though they are less costly than home health aides or nursing homes.
The community is invited to a Galileo Place Open House on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 3 to 7 p.m. According to Meier, “It is a perfect time to casually tour the facility and therapy garden, meet some of the staff, and ask questions.” Please RSVP by calling 530-758-5566.
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