Day programs help both elders and their caregivers
AS HAWAII'S elderly population grows faster, many baby boomers and families will be faced with the challenges of caring for their loved ones -- whether they are aging parents, grandparents or spouses. Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, retirement communities, independent senior housing, adult day services and other senior support services will be more in demand in the future as Hawaii's elderly population outpaces national averages. According to the University of Hawaii's Center on the Family, by 2030, about 27 percent of the population will be 60 or older, with about 3 percent 85 and older. An adult day program is a good resource for many families.
In general, adult day programs all have structured activities such as exercise, arts and crafts, games, music, lunch and learning experiences in group settings that enhance health and well-being. Most individuals who go to an adult day program cannot be left at home alone, because they have some form of dementia or memory loss or need some assistance with activities of daily living but don't require around-the-clock care.
Some have difficulty remembering things -- things they knew and loved to do previously. It can be very frustrating for them. Therefore, every effort is made to help them succeed at little things and help them feel better about themselves. The predictable routine of music, laughter, bingo games and familiar faces creates a satisfying day even for individuals with memory loss. As a provider of adult day services, I have noticed that participants can find value and joy in each day even when there are declines in memory or mobility.
Eddie began having memory problems a few years ago. As his condition worsened, his wife felt she needed outside help and looked into an adult day program for her him. For the past four years, Eddie has been going to the day program five days a week. While he now has confusion and cannot carry on meaningful conversations, he enjoys being with the group and participates in some of the activities. His wife notices that the daily socialization and stimulation help him sleep better. And with Eddie in good hands for a few hours a day, she's able to volunteer and receive much-needed respite as the daily demands of caregiving increase.
The primary goal of an adult day program is to improve the quality of life for seniors and their families, by helping older adults maintain their dignity and functional abilities and stay safely at home for as long as possible. Interaction with others combined with activity and the sense of purpose gained from participation might mean less loneliness and depression and fewer health complaints, which in turn can result in fewer visits to the doctor or trips to the emergency room.
While adult day programs support the participants, they also provide valuable assistance to caregivers who work or need respite from the day-to-day demands. Caregiver strain is often reduced, because there is less worry if their loved one is in a safe, supervised environment. A little time to take a break or enjoy a day with friends is so important and much deserved.
These are just a few of the benefits an adult day program can provide. Even when used part-time, just two or three days a week, families have noticed some significant improvements in their loved ones. And they feel they can be better caregivers when they are also taking care of themselves. Attending a caregiver support group also can help.
Currently, Hawaii has nearly 30 licensed adult day programs. Costs average between $50 and $75 a day. While adult day care is not covered by Medicare, it might be covered by a long-term care insurance policy. Some programs also offer financial subsidies.
No one ever plans to attend an adult day program after retirement, but sometimes it can be a blessing for individuals in their golden years and their caregivers.
Sister Ellen McClure was recently appointed program director of Franciscan Adult Day Center, an outreach program of St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii and the Sisters of St. Francis. Call 988-5678 for information.