By Nikki Jhutti
Twelve years ago, Noreen Peters married the love of her life, Jim.
“He’s a fun loving guy, he’s a joker and he has a great sense of humor,” smiles Noreen. “He promised me I would never be bored.”
Jim kept that promise. But not in the way the couple imagined.
In 2014, Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. “I finally found someone who loves me unconditionally and he’s going to disappear,” Noreen says holding back tears. Jim is now 81-years-old. The doting wife cares for him full-time and up until recently, she was still working.
“He wasn’t safe to stay at home by himself, but I needed to work,” Noreen explains. That’s when she learned about Providence Care’s Adult Day and Overnight Stay Care program. It provides quality respite care for adults living with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or physical disabilities.
Jim started going to the program in February 2018. “He started one day a week, but he wanted to know why I was working and he wasn’t,” the caregiver explains. “He was retired when I met him, but he said ‘no I’m not retired’. I said ‘OK let me find you job’, so I found him a ‘job’ at the Adult Day program.”
Jim now goes to ‘work’ five days a week. “He spends a lot of time in my office, cleans and helps me out,” says Beth Bruce, program coordinator. “The biggest thing is to allow clients to live in the moment, in their reality. You can’t tell them what to do. You have to figure out where they are in their life.”
“My husband needs to see me all the time, but this is one place he agrees to go without me,” adds Noreen. “I was his caregiver 24/7 for five years, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I needed some me time. I know he is safe here and I know he’s entertained.”
The program serves up to 28 clients a day. They range in age from as young as 50-years-old to 102. The staff is made up of personal support workers, a registered practical nurse, recreational and administrative staff, as well as volunteers.
“People gather, socialize, take part in games or physical activities, or get care, like have a bath or get their nails cut,” explains Bruce. “It’s respite for caregivers but we also want to help clients maintain their independence. So if we can keep them stimulated, keep their minds and bodies working, they can stay independent and remain in their own homes longer.” Activities vary from week to week, but may include trivia and word games, badminton, music, daily exercise, gardening or baking.
“Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t going away, in fact with this particular population it’s growing,” says Jo-Ann Shotton, program manager. “Our recreational staff works very hard to create a calendar of activities that touches base with the abilities of our clients while meeting their physical, social and cognitive needs. We have different activities going on at the same time, to keep as many people engaged as possible.”
The program recently extended its weekday hours and is now open Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Erin Morgan’s mother Carolyn Dukelow has Alzheimer’s. She attends the program five days a week, and has been a client for about a year. “My mom is a very gentle, loving and caring person. I care for her full-time at home. She lives with my husband and our children,” Morgan says. The caregiver added the expanded hours helps her family maintain a routine, they can manage. “I wouldn’t be able to work full time without it, no way. I can bring her before work, and in the evenings I have time to run out and grab groceries, pay a few bills or pickup any medications my mom may need.” Morgan also uses the Overnight Stay Care service for her mom, which provides respite care overnight and on weekends.
Caregivers are able to drop off their loved ones at 4:30 p.m. on Fridays and pick them up by 2:30 p.m. Sunday. “With having the level of security in that building, as many staff as they do and all their supports, I’m at a 100 per cent comfort level,” Morgan says. “They treat my mom like they do their own loved ones. That gives me and my family so much peace of mind.”
“People say we’re their angels looking after them, when they had no hope at home,” adds Bruce. “It’s very rewarding and makes you feel warm inside. It’s nice to know what we’re doing is helping people.” People like Noreen and Jim Peters. “It was the best decision I made to have Jim come here,” Noreen exclaimed. “It’s important to recharge your batteries because you do get worn-out. So as long as Jim is allowed to ‘work’, he’ll be here.”
Nikki Jhutti is a Communications Officer at Providence Care.