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Published on December 18, 2017

When the caregiver needs a breakWhen the caregiver needs a break

There are close to 67 million people in America caring for an elderly family member, according to The SCAN Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people age with dignity. Those numbers are expected to soar as the baby boomer generation enters their senior years.

Family caregivers are taking care of a variety of needs for their loved ones, including hands-on care, financial support and emotional support. It’s a labor of love, but it can also be exhausting.

Adult day health centers like Tradewinds Adult Day Health Center in Sandwich and Compass Adult Day Health Center in Harwich provide a vital respite for caregivers, giving them a chance to work, run errands or simply sit back and read a book undisturbed for a while. Both facilities are run by the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod in comfortable home-like settings.

“Our services give the families respite and allows them to work,” said Tradewinds manager Diann Cardillo, RN. “It’s a safe environment for those who are not safe being home alone.”

[RELATED: A ‘staycation’ for seniors at adult day program]

Adult day health participants are struggling with a variety of things, such as disability from a stroke, or Parkinson’s disease, but the majority of people who use the service have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Tradewinds and Compass are open five days a week and participants spend between two and five days a week at the center. There are registered nurses on site at all times, as well as program aids to assist with activities of daily living, an activity coordinator and social services for coordination of care. If physical, occupational or speech therapy is prescribed, the VNACC sends the appropriate therapist to provide the therapy.

“We are a medical model, so a registered nurse manages their chronic disease,” Cardillo says. “We manage their medication, provide treatments when necessary and make sure any status changes are reported to their doctor.”

Some clients are driven to Tradewinds and Compass by a spouse or family member, but the VN also has a contract with Cape Cod Regional Transit, Dial-A-Ride Transportation (formerly the B-bus), which provides door-to-door service.

The adult day health center’s program begins at 8:30 a.m. Clients are greeted at the door and given a light breakfast, after which they do trivia and test your knowledge-type games. A staff member reads from the daily newspaper – only good news – and discusses the date and what events are happening in the world.

Next is a gross motor activity. Participants do seated exercises, chair yoga or play games like hockey that have been adapted for them with small hockey nets. Games like horse racing where a staff member calls out numbers and advances horses on a mat address number cognition.

Lunch is provided by local skilled nursing facilities and are nutritionally balanced to meet the participants’ individual dietary requirements. Participants make their choices from the menus provided.

“In the afternoon, we have cards,” Cardillo said. “We try to group our participants according to cognitive ability so we have a group in the afternoon that plays bridge or whist. We also have a couple of cribbage players.”

Socialization is a big benefit of the adult day health program. Cardillo said that the participants really enjoy both the programs and making friends. They are provided a light afternoon snack before going home at 2:45pm.

“Safety is number one, and it helps our participants to maintain some level of independence and to remain home as long as possible. It’s a great alternative to a nursing home.”