Aging Well

"Taking Mom to the Club": Introducing Adult Memory Care Day Programs

There is no parachute escape when trying to care for a loved one with memory issues, but there are options. Residential memory care is out of reach financially for many and many want to keep their loved one at home anyway as long as possible. Day programs are a great option.

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Liisa Ogburn

“My dad would never go for adult care,” a daughter recently lamented.

More and more clients come to me because of memory issues. Either one’s spouses’ memory needs become too much for the other spouse to manage 24/7, or if they are widowed and their adult children are providing the care and supervision, the adult children, often sandwiches between a fulltime job and caring for children still at home, reach their max.

There is no parachute escape in this very common and challenging situation, but there are options. Residential memory care is out of reach financially for many and many want to keep their loved one at home anyway as long as possible.

Some people do so by hiring private care, but this can quickly become very expensive. Hiring adult sitters who work independently typically charge from $15-22/hour. Agency care in this region typically costs $21-$25/hour with three or four hour minimums. In other words, if someone is looking for agency care inn order to work 40-hours a week themselves, then that would cost $3,360 in post-tax earnings—in other words, this is the reason many women stop working at the height of their earning potential because the expense for care for their parent exceeds the amount they can earn. But who is going to take care of them then when they need to tap savings for care? You can see how it quickly becomes an intergenerational pattern that leaves future generations financially vulnerable.

That’s why I often introduce adult day programs.

“But my mom or dad was a PhD professor or a physician, diplomat or teacher. They would never go for that.”

Memory issues are memory issues, regardless of however professionally accomplished one was or wasn’t during their working years.

Last week I took a client over to SarahCare, and while it did not go that smoothly, I had a little time alone with the Executive Director Marcia Jarrell, who gave me the tips below. And guess what? Day two went a little better.

Now this client attends SarahCare at a monthly cost for fulltime care during the week (which was based on her care level needs) of $1,620, a little less than half the cost of the lowest agency rate.

Marcia's Tips:
  1. People like to help others. If that is the case, we often suggest going with the approach that the participant come to us as a "volunteer". I will meet with the individual and "interview them for the volunteer position" and than invite them to be my guest and to spend a few hours at the center to see if it will be a good fit.
  2. Many do well when they hear the center referred to as a club, work or school. It is about meeting the person where they are and from there, build on that scenario to gain their acceptance to try the program. Never use the words "adult day care center", because no adult wants to hear those words, just as they don't want to hear assisted living or nursing home.
  3. I tell families and participants to mentally commit to trying the program for at least 2 days a week for a month. What the participant hears is this is not permanent and that they have a part in the decision process. We all want that, and that validates them. Typically, I don't have to address the 30 days once the person is at the center, but if I do, it is effective.
  4. Putting a note in the person's pocket from the family member that they can read as reminder that they are being picked up at a certain time helps as well. The person can look at the note several times a day and just by reading it, a sense a calm can occur.
  5. We look to gather as much information as possible about the person prior to a complimentary trial day of 4 hours. We want to know career and activity interests from past and present so that we can find ways to communicate with the new participant. The more we know about the person, the better the trial day and transition period goes.
  6. I tell families that at the end of the day, we all want to go home and that is what we share with the participants. We also walk around the center with the participants to show them there are no beds in the center and we close at 6:00, so nobody stays here! I even will lighten the moment by telling a participant that I know where they live and I will personally take them home at the end of the day if necessary! That always gets a smile and a moment of relief for them!
  7. Another way to help someone get in the front door is a home visit from me. I can meet the participant in their home and in their surroundings and establish a rapport with them. From there, I can ask them to come be my guest and often they agree. Obviously, we are dealing with memory loss and cognitive challenges so what is retain may be minimal if at all, but it still has a way of working because I have established a rapport with that person.
  8. The best tips I can give is for a caregiver to come in for a tour and a conversation with me. Each person is different and getting to know the caregiver and what that person's needs are is the best way to determine if adult day programs can be the solution. Caregiving is the most challenging role that most people will ever face and have a partner on the journey is what they need. My staff and I are committed to being their partners. No one should have to go it alone.

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