June 18, 2009
MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services, is coordinated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ with support from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey; CARES brings together professionals and lay leaders from MetroWest agencies that provide services to older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency presents an educational column on an elder-care issue; this month’s article is presented by Daughters of Israel. In addition to offering long-term skilled nursing residential care, short-term rehabilitation services, and an Alzheimer’s special care unit, Daughters also operates the Herr Adult Medical Day Center, a non-sectarian program designed to promote and maintain each participant’s dignity and independence within the community.
“Mom can’t sit home alone all day.”
From the days of our youth, we wake up, get washed, dressed, have breakfast and then go…to school, play, work, clean the house. We dream of the days when we can just stop.
Sounds great? For a vacation, yes. For 20 or 30 years, maybe not.
Today’s seniors often live into their 80s or 90s. If you retired at 65, that’s at least 15 years of “stop.” Most seniors stay active with friends, hobbies, sports, and other activities. They are still on go. But what about the senior who can’t just go?
“Frank’s friends are gone or moved away. He used to be so active.”
There are excellent programs for seniors. Jewish community centers and town recreation programs are wonderful for active seniors, keeping connections to the community alive and providing opportunities for learning and new friendships. Some seniors, however, have difficulty keeping up with this pace because of medical issues or disabilities that make such programs uncomfortable, or even unsafe.
“She doesn’t eat properly, and I’m not sure she’s taking her medicine.”
That’s where adult day centers come in. Such centers are designed for the senior who can succeed in a more supportive environment. Nursing care, a structured activity program, social services, and personal care are provided. Seniors can have the care they need so they can go.
According to Christina Ramirez, activity director at Daughters of Israel’s Herr Adult Medical Day Center, “Our members need our nursing care, but they come for the fun activities and to chat with their new friends. And they love the TLC!”
“All Dad does is stare at the TV.”
Choosing an adult day center is easier than it sounds. Each one has its own “culture.” Some are primarily for younger, disabled adults. Others are specifically for seniors with cognitive problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Be honest with the staff regarding care needs and behaviors; those issues may be easy for them to handle if they know about them up front.
Clean and cheerful, but not juvenile, physical environments are important. Seniors who are actively engaged — which may mean quiet but attentive — are a positive sign. Can the staff explain why any seniors might not be involved in an activity? There may be a good reason, such as a scheduled rest period because that particular senior gets tired.
What meals are served? How do they handle a senior with special dietary issues or who needs help? How do the seniors react to staff? Do they smile or do they pull away? Are they assisted from place to place or is there an announcement and seniors are expected to find their own way to activities?
The staff should be able to provide you with a calendar of activities. Do they accommodate a range of interests and abilities? How does the center handle transportation, and is it handicapped-accessible? Does it go to your town?
Any day center should offer a time to try out the program. This is free at almost every center. Take advantage — it’s a good way to know if this is the “right” center for the individual’s needs. Centers should also be open to tours at any time, and visitors should be welcome to stay for quiet observation of the program.
Often, seniors behave differently at day centers than they do at home. Many never lose their “social face,” that sense that they should be on their best behavior when they’re out and about. Seniors who are quiet and withdrawn at home may be more social when with a group of their peers. Seniors who don’t eat well at home may eat better at the day center, because eating is what everyone else is doing. This is exactly what you are looking for: an environment that is supportive and trusted, that welcomes seniors and helps them “go.”
Jennifer Rutberg has been director of Daughters of Israel’s Herr AMDC for the past seven years. Her favorite memories are those of the center’s members’ quiet moments of joy.
Families and caregivers needing answers to broader elder-care questions and help with community resources can contact Elderlink — a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050, ext. 511, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.