Day Center: A Friend to Vulnerable Adults and Their Caregivers.
“The VNA has been very, very good to us,” Luz Chaves said recently, as she explained how the agency supported every aspect of her husband Douglas’ care from pre-hospital discharge arrangements to facilitate a safe homecoming to his current involvement in the Friendship House program.
A stroke that necessitated extended hospital and nursing home stays followed by several months of in-home assistance from a VNA team that included nurses, a certified home health aide and physical and occupational therapists, left Douglas Chaves feeling frustrated and depressed from the lingering effects of vascular dementia. Fortunately, his experienced home care team recognized that he was an excellent candidate for Friendship House – and his wife and primary caregiver, Luz, welcomed the referral and trusted the VNA to provide day care.
“My husband lost interest in grooming when he was homebound. He was often irritable and just wanted to sleep all the time. Now that he looks forward to attending Friendship House, he’s in a better frame-of-mind and motivated to bathe, shave and help choose his own clothing,” she said. “I enjoy watching him interact with other clients and the staff when I pick him up there and he always comes home with stories about his day or crafts that he’s made.”
While Douglas is in the care of the VNA, Luz is free to run essential errands or even enjoy a brief, well-deserved respite. “I get so much more done now,” she said. Another unexpected benefit of her spouse’s attendance at Friendship House has been access to a network of other caregivers who understand the stresses and challenges associated with that role. She participates in monthly Caregiver Support Group meetings facilitated by a VNA social worker and communicates with new friends from the group via phone between get-togethers. “The social contact at Friendship House has benefited both of us in many ways. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this program to other families.”
Dispelling Myths About Adult Day Care
While Luz Chaves quickly embraced the concept of social adult day care as a result of a bond established with the VNA, many caregivers are unfamiliar with the service and reluctant to consider it.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about adult day centers and many people are unaware of the breadth of services and activities that we provide. Seniors who might otherwise be isolated at home without meaningful opportunities to socialize with others can participate in enjoyable activities here that help to preserve their cognitive and physical skills,” observed Mayelin Ravelo, Program Coordinator for the VNA Friendship House. “Our goal is to bring some joy into the lives of our clients each day and then return them safely to their primary caregivers who are refreshed by the respite that we have provided.”
“Most caregivers are understandably cautious about entrusting others with the care of their vulnerable loved ones, so they steadfastly struggle to keep pace with escalating needs around the clock to the detriment of their own mental and physical well-being,” she said. “Some hesitate to seek help because they believe they can’t afford it.“
That’s why Ravelo invites every caregiver who inquires about the center to come for a visit. “We often refer to that as a tour, but it’s actually much more,” she said. “Caregivers are encouraged to bring their loved one along, so that meeting also serves to assess whether the Friendship House is a good fit and provides the caregiver with insights into how their loved one will be treated.” At the same session, Ravelo addresses any concerns about the program’s costs and assists with financial arrangements that may include a reduction of program fees for those who qualify or grant assistance from the Morris County Office on Aging and other sources.
Therapeutic, Fun Activities
Once enrolled in Friendship House, most clients quickly find some activities that pique their interest and hold their attention. Since the center serves clients with varied intellectual, emotional and physical challenges and some clients have progressive conditions, the staff offers activities that are appropriate for men and women with varied skill levels and provides one-on-one assistance and encouragement. Activities include discussion groups, diverse arts and crafts including a new program offered through an affiliation with Arts Unbound, a nonprofit group devoted to bringing the arts to youth and seniors with special needs; light exercise programs such as Yomenco, a musical hybrid of yoga and dance designed exclusively for seniors; gardening activities led by volunteers from the Morris County Master Gardeners’ Program; and seasonal celebrations and theme parties.
The VNA Friendship House, located on the grounds of St. Clare’s Behavioral Health in Boonton, is open from Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Adults who require supervision due to physical or cognitive impairment or advanced age are eligible to participate from one to five days per week. Financial assistance with program fees is available to those who qualify. If you have a loved one who might benefit from the Friendship House Adult Day Program, please call Mayelin Ravelo, the Program Coordinator, at (973) 451-4152 for a free consultation and tour.